In the end, Town Councillor Susan Flowers voted against her own motion to limit the number of notices each councillor can make, but you can't help but believe it was a minor victory all the same.
Flowers was pushing to have town councillors limited to three notices of motion per year so it did not tie up time on one-off items. While some fellow councillors recognized the intention, they did not agree with the idea of limiting their right to bring forward motions.
Most adamantly opposed to the motion was Councillor Alex Reed who saw it as an attack on everything he holds dear about the principles of democracy and good government.
"While I respect my fellow colleague, Councillor Flowers, and suspect her original intentions of this notice of motion were to be constructive, I cannot support this notice of motion because it violates everything I believe to be true about these principles and values of democracy," he said as part of an extensive rebuttal.
"I feel that we must collectively take a stand for democracy and resist any type of meddling in the democratic process, even if it is unintentional."
Reed said he ran on a platform of transparency and is adverse to anything that would seriously hamper council's legislative responsibility. He also defended the need to keep the administrative inquiry item on the agenda, one he used early in his term to ask some probing questions. It has been suggested there's a movement afoot to eliminate the agenda item.
Flowers said she has received both positive and negative feedback from the public on her proposal and some had misconstrued it to be aimed at limiting the democratic process. What she wanted to do was cut down on one-off motions that would distract council and administration from its strategic priorities. She says some of the motions have come out of the blue, surprising both council and administration with little feedback from residents.
"Yes, there are emergent issues that need to be addressed but they are not the norm," she said. "If we are tapped into the community, listening to what residents need, and are working together, there should only be a few notices of motion each year.
"Notices of motion should not be used as a sudden desire by any councillor to exercise their power. They are meant to be used for important issues that affect the community."
Councillor Tara McFadden said it is a tool she wants to keep but it's only one method at councillors' disposal to bring issues forward and shouldn't be abused.
While saying she understands the rationale behind the motion, Councillor Marni Fedeyko said she could not support it. She was concerned, however, the motions could bog down council and get them off their path. Her biggest fear would be to not have anything accomplished by the end of their four-year term because they are sidetracked.
Councillor Morgan Nagel, who has brought forward five notices of motions in five months, did not believe their use is spiraling out of control and believes they have not seriously impended administration's time. He said he forewarned the mayor in advance of each of the motions he brought forward.
Councillor Patrick Wilson said he doesn't believe their use has been outlandish nor is their use out of control. He doesn't believe they have caused any inefficiencies and doesn't see them as a problem.
Mayor Jeff Genung also opposed the motion and said his intention is to allow for open discussion. But he did warn council that it's a "seriously busy time" for the town and a number of major initiatives are on the table. He is still not keen on one-off motions, something he has voiced concern over in the past.
"If we are functioning properly, we don't need to set a limit," he said.
Despite the motion going down in defeat, Councillors Flowers believes some good came out of the discussion.
"The discussion was good and everybody was respectful and think they know where it's was coming from," says Flowers. "I'm really not trying to ruin democracy but really it was about giving everyone a fair chance to bring things forward without getting too overwhelmed."
No other Alberta municipality places a limit on notices of motion and Reed did extensive research with 17 municipalities and officials of Alberta Municipal Affairs and Alberta Urban Municipalities Association. Outside officials questioned the idea and suggested the town should receive legal counsel before it is even considered adopting such a restriction.