Variance vote varied. What happened?

Writer wants to know what the rules are governing transparency when a decision made at a public meeting is reconsidered, changed


At the June 15, 2015, council meeting Mayor Stone took the highly unusual step of bringing back to council a variance request which had been voted down at the June 1 council meeting.

He used special powers under the Community Charter to bring the issue back to council for reconsideration and a second vote. The mayor said he brought the issue back because he had received a “high level of supportive feedback” (Nanaimo Daily News, June 17, 2015) for the variance.

Councillors Arnett, Hutchins and Paterson also reported  receiving feedback supporting the variance. No new information regarding the variance was brought forward at the June 15 meeting.

The vote was virtually the same as June 1. Voting against the variance were Councillors Henderson, Friesenhan and Fradin. Voting in favour were Mayor Stone, Councillors Hutchins and Arnett.

The only change was by Councillor Paterson who changed his vote from a no on June 1 to a yes on June 15. As a result the variance passed on the second vote.

At the meeting on June 1 all members of the public who spoke or made submissions about the variance were identified by name and their views recorded in the agenda or minutes.

On June 15 no information was given about who provided the presumably new feedback supporting the variance after the first vote. We were not told how many people were involved or what exactly they had to say.

Given that it was their input which brought the issue back to council and changed Councillor Paterson’s mind, these are disturbing omissions. Where were these unidentified supporters of the variance when they had the opportunity to speak the first time the variance was voted on?

When the mayor decides to take the extraordinary step of forcing council to re-vote on an issue, one would expect there would be full disclosure of all the evidence supporting that decision.

We were promised more openness at last November’s election. What happened?

Pam Fraser, Ladysmith