Last term, council approved a recommendation from the CAO to dump its traditional structure of council and public committees, to an internal system of standing committees filled only with politicians. The structure is used in several other – mostly larger – communities. It sounded intriguing, bold and exciting, so council said yes, let’s try it. Let’s be innovative.
But, despite recommendations to the contrary, it wasn’t implemented until this new council took office. And that implementation isn’t working.
In fact, it’s created a worse-than-ever disconnect between politicians the the public.
Instead of engaging the public more, instead of creating more openness and transparency, it is doing the opposite: alienating us. Members of the public who used to contribute to the process through boards and committees are now shut out.
It needs to be fixed or scrapped and a more open system restored.
Three standing committees – Development & Operations, Community Services, and Corporate Services – meet once a month, on different days (Monday, Wednesday and Monday, respectively). Each has only three council members on it.
To their credit, sometimes non-member councillors also attend these meetings in the audience, but not all. Nor do all senior staff attend every committee meeting. But isn’t that redundant?
There is also a Strategic Initiatives Standing Committee, comprised of all of council, which has met only once so far (on a Thursday), to discuss budget matters. Plus there are separate budget meetings.
Council itself – all nine members – only meets twice a month. Recommendations and reports from those standing committees are then brought forward and often re-discussed. This is neither efficient nor good governance.