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Can a councillor who is out expressing opinions on the Downtown Eastside plan still vote on it?

Question: Andrea Reimer extolled the virtues of the DTES plan which goes to public hearing on March 12th.  Sounded to  me like her mind was made up.  Doesn’t this mean she should recuse herself?

Answer: Well, I was going to pontificate in my little civic blowhard way about the leeway councillors have to express opinions, even when something is going to public hearing. Because I too thought this was going to public hearing. I may even have written that in my conversational, factually inaccurate way.

But I decided to ask Andrea to explain it all. She wrote a nice, long email, with a little piece of information in the first line that reminds us all what the actual process is here. Live and learn:

At this point, the DTES Plan isn’t coming to Public Hearing: it’s a policy document coming to Council for debate and decision. The public has the right to access this process (speak at council, write to council, meeting with councillors) but it does not constitute a public hearing which is a specific legal designation that carries more rigid process constraints and is used to evaluate whether amendments to bylaw meet the tests set out by Council-passed policies.

If the DTES Plan does pass, it would trigger a few items going to public hearing related to specific amendments to bylaws to bring them into compliance with the new policy direction.

At that public hearing, Council’s job would be to ensure that the changes reflect the intent of the policies passed in the Plan.

If those amendments pass, specific sites may come forward to public hearing under a rezoning policy (also contained in the plan) and at that point, it would be Council’s job to evaluate the specific site proposal against the policy and evaluate the offered benefits against the public benefits strategy.

I’m guessing that all sounds a bit much but it’s the framework we are given by the Province (pretty much every province has the same basic structure) and as I understand it, the Province’s intent is to provide some letter of certainty to landowners (both of land seeking rezoning and other landowners in the community) as to the expectations for land use and built form.

Our hope within that provincial framework is to create a structure by which communities (renters, co-op members, owners and everyone else) to be able to manage and guide growth of housing, economic activity, and community services and amenities.