Collingwood’s three standing committees consist solely of three members of council, each.*
These committees of three each hold regular, published monthly meetings, hear public delegations, address public issues, post an agenda, receive staff reports, vote on issues, have recorded minutes, have staff to record them, and make recommendations back to council.
In other words they are treated identically to any regular council meeting. Their recommendations are read into the council minutes and voted upon.
Yet none of these committees has a quorum (majority) of council on it.
When one person is absent, as has happened several times since they were struck, the committee consists of a mere two members of council. Three – and sometimes two – members of council can make recommendations about policy, events or issues on behalf of the town that may be approved by council.
Is this democratic? Open? Accountable? Clearly not, if two people can decide issues for the whole town.
More to the point, is it legal?
As I understand it, according to Section 237 of the Municipal Act, to be legal, a meeting requires a quorum of council: in this case, a minimum of five members, and councils cannot alter that requirement (emphasis added):
237 (2) The council of a municipality referred to in paragraphs 1, 2 and 3 of subsection (1) may reduce its quorum requirement but may not reduce it to less than a majority of its members. 2001, c. 25, s. 237 (2).
According to a paper published by George H. Rust-D’Eye for the Ontario Municipal Administrators’ Association, November 20, 2014 (emphasis added):
Councillors are legislative decision-makers of the municipality, and, with the exception of the head, who is the chief executive officer, they have no individual executive or ministerial duties. Moreover, they have no authority to act for the corporation except in conjunction with other members constituting a quorum. As legislators, they fulfil a role similar to members of Parliament or the Provincial Legislature.
In a report to the City of London, the Ombudsman noted that,
…having a quorum means a sufficient number of members (a majority in this case) are present to legally transact business.
The corollary seems to me that not having a quorum means the committee cannot legally conduct business relating to the town. Yet each one does.
As I read the various reports and laws, an official meeting requires a quorum. Without it, it is not a legal meeting. But even if it is – what is open and transparent about two or three out of nine deciding what policies or recommendations to make to council?