Tensions boiled over during a council meeting in the small west coast community of Tahsis, ending in a yelling match as a councillor took the gavel from the deputy mayor.
“We are going to talk as long as we want,” shouted one resident after Deputy Mayor Sarah Fowler stopped a speaker who had gone over the allotted time.
In livestream footage of Tuesday’s meeting, Fowler is heard saying: “I have the gavel,” which she repeatedly banged as another person shouted: “I don’t care what you got, you do not treat us like that.”
Tahsis is surrounded by dramatic scenery. The village is a three-hour drive west of Campbell River. Its mill closed more than two decades ago and today’s population at close to 400.
Council consists of Mayor Martin Davis, a two-term mayor, and four councillors. Davis is on holiday but is expected to return in time for the next council meeting on April 4.
A two-minute maximum is allotted for each speaker appearing before the council during the public input session. Throughout the hearing, several speakers went over the limit.
In one instance, a speaker proceeded for five minutes with Fowler telling her time was up three times. Fowler then banged the gavel repeatedly.
Coun. Douglas Elliott walked up to Fowler’s chair and took the gavel away.
“I don’t need that — I can do this,” said Fowler as she slammed the table to shouts from an attendee calling her a child.
After sharing a video from the meeting on social media, Fowler wrote on Twitter: “This was by far my worst day in local government in the last 5 years.”
Fowler said the “temperature” at the village’s public hearings had been simmering since the municipal election.
“When people talk about tar and feathers after the two-minute limit, it is very personal. Recruiting people to run for political office is hard enough,” said Fowler.
The meeting included a rise-and-report item censuring Elliot, who has criticized council members and some senior municipal staff in recent months.
Elliot has expressed concerns over the village’s financial affairs, bylaw enforcement and borrowing for sewage treatment. He could not be contacted on Friday.
Fowler said Friday that when she is the meeting chair in the mayor’s absence, her job is “to do my best to adhere to the procedural policies of our village.”
She said she is in defence of order and opposed to name-calling.
Amid all the attention given to the video, Fowler said council made an important decision this week. “We passed a motion to become a living-wage employer.”
— With a file from Carla Wilson, Times Colonist