Carbonear councillors push back against committee changes

By Mark Squibb/June 30, 2022

Carbonear council has rejected amendments to the rules of procedure as recommended by the Administration and Finance committee

The motion was moved by councillor Chris O’Grady and seconded by councillor Peter Snow.

Councillor Danielle Doyle made it clear she was not in favour of the amendments, which appear to relate to the number of councillors who sit on each committee.

“I’m voting against the changes in the rules of procedure,” said Doyle. “When we met as a new council back in September, the committee structure changed. Prior to that, there were three councillors on every committee, which meant that everybody in this room were on an equal number of committees with the mayor acting as ex-offico. And I don’t think it’s democratic, when most of the work of council is done in committee, that certain councillors are on two committees and certain councillors are only on one, and I also feel it diminishes the voices of the residents of Carbonear to have fewer members of the elected officials on the committees, because we all come from different areas of town, we all come from different social networks, we all come from different work networks, we know different circles of people, and I just feel like maintaining what we previously had was a more democratic process.”

Deputy Mayor Sam Slade, who noted that he is on the Public Works committee and a liaison with the Heritage Society, also had a complaint about the proposed changes.

“Myself and Malcom (Seymour) are on the (Public Works) committee,” said Slade. “And the mayor of course is ex-officio. Now, I understand that the mayor can’t get to every meeting. So, if Malcom is gone, that means the meeting has to be postponed for a length of time, and sometimes it is a long time.”

Slade went on to say that as meetings are postponed, the workload continues to grow. 

Councillor Ray Noel noted that in his time on council, there have always been three councilors per committee.

“We’ve all heard the expression, ‘Two heads are better than one’; well, in my mind, three heads are better than two,” said Noel. “Most of the work of council is done at committee level.”

He listed off a number of communities, including Clarenenville, Deer Lake, Gander, and Grand Falls-Windsor, that have three members of council to each committee, noting that some towns, such as Bay Roberts, have two members of council per committee.

“I appreciate what the Administrative committee came back with, but to me, in retrospect, I really don’t see any need to change,” said Noel. “If it’s not broke, don’t fix it.”

Councilor Snow said he had no objections to the three councilors (Noel, Doyle, and O’Grady) who currently sit on only one committee, being added to a second committee, so that every member of council sits on at least two committees.

Councilor Malcom Seymour added, in the same vein as Slade’s earlier comment, that with more members of council on each committee, it would be less likely that meetings would be cancelled due to members being unavailable.

“Which is exactly what I said,” agreed Slade. “The committee meetings got to go ahead as scheduled… If the committee meetings can’t go ahead, we’re losing ground.”

After some further discussion, the motion was defeated (only councillor Chris O’Grady voted in favour of it, joking that he would feel funny not voting for a motion he put forward.)

In a follow up e-mail, Town CAO Cynthia Davis confirmed the amendments had to do with committee structures, particularly the number of councillors that sit on each committee.

“After the last election, committee assignments included two councillors and the mayor as Ex-Offico which will be three councillors on each standing committee and the applicable staff,” wrote Davis, adding the CAO is also ex-officio on each committee.
“The purpose of the amendment to the Rules of Procedure was to make the changes to coincide with the committee structure as appointed after the election,” wrote Davis. “The motion to adopt was defeated and it is my understanding now that Council are reconsidering the current structure to possibly having three councillors and the mayor as Ex-Officio on each standing committee for a total of four elected officials per standing committee.”

The Town of Paradise faced a similar motion back in March — and reached a very different outcome.

In Paradise, the Administration and Corporate Services committee recommended a new terms of reference for committees that would limit not only how many councillors could sit on a committee, but how many members of council could participate in committee meetings without being a member of that committee.

Again, as in Carbonear, the impetus for change appeared to be the risk of a quorum of council meeting behind closed doors.

“I have to fully support this on the notion that some of our committee meetings were becoming very close to borderline contradicting the Municipalities Act,” said Paradise councilor Patrick Martin of the amendment. “We were having too much discussion behind doors.”

In Paradise, only one councillor, Glen Carew, voted against the changes.

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