North Saanich municipal staff were put on the defensive by a request by Councillor Craig Mearns Monday, June 3 to see emails between them and the consultant hired to prepare the district’s housing report.
Mearns, in outlining the request, said he wants to know what has been said and what direction staff has given the consultant in preparing a final report for council.
“I want to see if there’s been any influence on the consultant to change his conclusions,” Mearns said.
That comment prompted a quick response from Councillor Elsie McMurphy, who said she was at a loss, as acting mayor, as to how to handle Mearns; “aspersions that staff may have influenced the consultant in this regard.”
Chief administrative officer Ron Buchan said he, too, was concerned about Mearns’ suggestion. He did, however, say that to allay the councillors’ concerns, all of the correspondence will be made available.
Director of Planning and Community Services Mark Brodrick added staff’s communication with CTQ Consultants on a draft housing report was only in regards to the council’s original terms of reference.
Councillor Conny McBride countered McMurphy’s comments, saying “you’re putting words in our mouths.”
“We shouldn’t be criticized for wanting information,” said McBride. “A lot of people in this community are asking questions.”
The housing report is due any time this week or next, but has been delayed. That has some councillors wondering why it has taken so long.
Councillor Dunstan Browne said staff’s response to have all of the communication put in a reading file is “a reasonable one”, yet he wondered why the final report to council has taken so long.
Councillor Celia Stock softened the debate by saying she felt Mearns’ remarks weren’t meant in a negative way.
Council voted to have staff include communications between them, the mayor and all of council, and the consultant in a reading file for review.