By Chad Feehan
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
October 20, 2023 Edition
Bay Roberts councillors returned last week to a topic that has bedeviled other councils at times – who should sit on what committee and for how long, and whether council should also meet as a committee of the whole.
Mayor Walter Yetman kicked off the conversation by referencing a previous agreement earlier in the council’s term to have a “bigger discussion about the committees structure and how the committees would be established for the next two years.”
Chief administrative officer Nigel Black detailed two previously discussed options: a revision of the standing committee structure, and a new committee of the whole system “similar to what’s used in the City of Corner Brook.”
A highlight of the system would be the appointment of an individual councillor as the lead council representative for each of the Town’s departments.
“The meeting will still have structure, and function similar to a council meeting but will be less formal and allow for more free discussion,” said Black.
Black had drafted a terms of reference reflecting the committee of the whole structure and a movement towards it “as was the direction given at that meeting.”
Also included in materials given to the council was a draft of the mayor’s appointments for the department leads and external organization appointments for 2023 into 2024. His recommendation was to adopt the committee of the whole terms of reference and council appointments policy.
Upon hearing the details of the change, Councillor Silas Badcock expressed a preference to discuss the entire matter in another meeting before moving forward. “It’s a big change to what we’ve done in the past,” Badcock said. “I think we need to have another meeting on it.”
Deputy Mayor Geoff Seymour acknowledged the need to make changes to make the committees “work better,” adding he was prepared to support previously discussed changes “if that was council’s will.”
Seymour was, however, disappointed to see preparations for such changes moving forward “without any consultations to the elected officials.”
“I thought in discussions last week part of the reasons for doing this was to alleviate some of the concerns council had in the past of not being involved, not being informed, not having a say, yet here we are in the same situation,” said the deputy mayor.
After some more back and forth between councillors, Yetman reminded the room that it is their decision to implement these changes or not, regardless of what has been drafted so far.
Both Badcock and Seymour were not sold on the committee appointments thus far.
“If we made an effort to consult and we didn’t get consensus, then by all means exert the mayor’s authority to appoint committees,” Seympur said. “But we didn’t make that effort.”
Yetman referred to a previous discussion on the matter as validation for the drafted changes.
“We had a really good discussion on the committee structure, everybody had the ability to say what they wanted and to voice their opinion,” he said.
After further debate, the mayor agreed to make an amendment to the motion to allow for further discussion on lead appointments.
“My mistake. We’re going to fix it,” said Yetman. “As I said, the council has the discretion to make the changes and to decide what you want. I’ve said that.”
Seymour echoed his own earlier sentiments. “While I didn’t favor this policy or this approach, I have no problem giving it a try if that’s the will of council,” he said. “I just wasn’t stuck on the lack of consultation.”
The motion was amended to discuss lead appointments at a later date and was subsequently carried.
By Chad Feehan