At a special meeting on Monday, Council made a number of key decisions on Governance and then approved the change. The current system using coordinators and several advisory committees was not seriously discussed; instead details of the new system proposed by staff were thrashed out. I counted five significant decisions but there were more, albeit minor ones. Mayor Cleveland was in good form and did a good job organizing the debate. He started by asking councillors in turn to say what they wanted to change from the staff proposal. Then after debate, there was a motion and vote for each “change”. Described briefly, the new system changes the way Councillors and Council meetings are organized to be more like how the County and other larger municipalities are run.
Summary of New System
Previously Councillors were assigned as coordinators with specific departments, but now there will be four Standing committees reviewing small groups of departments. Each committee will have 3 councillors (including the mayor) and will meet at 9:30 am or 1:00 pm (see schedule in Resources). This is instead of a single Committee of the Whole covering all departments alternating with the regular council meeting. The intent is to be more efficient with staff and Councillor time and more transparent and accountable. The Regular Council meeting where final decisions are made will be monthly on a Wednesday at 6:00 pm instead of every 3 weeks on a Monday.
Here is a summary of Council’s debate and their decisions:
Number of Committee Meetings
Councillor Aaron Burchat wanted only two committees and with all councillors at both meetings. He also wanted all meetings in the evening but this was not discussed. His idea was split into two parts (that is, two motions and decisions): 1) two committee meetings instead of four and 2) all councillors at each meeting instead of three. After debate, recorded votes defeated both motions. Voting in favour of this idea were Councillors Burchat, Mutton and Bureau. As a result, the new system will have four standing committee meetings with 3 councillors at each – as proposed.
Meeting Days and Times
The planned schedule has the monthly regular Council meeting at 6:00 pm on Wednesday (third or fourth in month) and Standing committee meetings three weeks before at 1:00 pm or 9:30 am. There will be no meetings in July and August unless specially called. After debate, Brian Darling successfully moved to confirm this.
Advisory Committees vs. Ad Hoc Task Forces
One of the things that the public did not like about the new system was the replacement of ongoing advisory committees with “Task Forces” which would be created by Council to advise on specific issues. The difference is that Advisory Committees come up with their own recommendations whereas a Task Force responds to a request by Council for advice on an issue. After debate, Council agreed to proceed with Task Forces. Nicole Beatty wanted a Task Force immediately created to recommend actions on the ICSP (Integrated Community Sustainability Plan) but Miriam Mutton wanted this to be an Advisory committee instead. However, other Councillors disagreed and voted to ask staff to prepare terms of reference for an ICSP Task Force.
So the decision of Council was to NOT create additional Advisory committees and instead keep just those mandated (Accessibility and Heritage) plus set up Ad Hoc Task Forces for other issues.
As a result, the following Advisory committees will not be re-convened in 2024 – unless Council replaces them with an Ad Hoc Task Force.
- Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Committee
- Parks and Recreation Advisory Committee
- Planning and Development Advisory Committee
- Sustainability and Climate Change Emergency Advisory Committee (Mostly replaced by ICSP Task Force)
- Transportation Advisory Committee
Speakers and Delegations
After clarification, Council agreed with the proposed new system with two opportunities for citizens to give their input at Council meetings:
- Subjects NOT on the Agenda – Delegations – as now and requiring 9 days notice
- Subjects ON the Agenda – Speakers – NEW – notice right up to meeting time.
The original proposal by staff had “speakers” limited to 5 minutes but this was changed so that both speakers and delegations would have 10 minutes.
Councillor Miriam Mutton had a number of questions and minor requests and some of these resulted in changes.
Mayor Cleveland finished the session by commenting on the large amount of work put into this proposal by the Clerks Department. He re-stated that Council could make changes in future if required: “It is a Living Document”.
At the end of the meeting, Council passed the following motion – referring to the By-Law implementing the change:
THAT Council receive this staff report for information purposes; and
FURTHER THAT Council endorse the proposed Procedural By-law, as amended; and
FURTHER THAT any changes to the Town’s Governance Review shall take effect in January 2024, following communication and public education on the new structure, and with training to all Members of Council and Staff on the new governance system.
Since this was a Special Council Meeting, the By-Law has now been approved and the new Governance will be in effect. Look for Town News announcements to “educate” us on the change.
Earlier reports on Cobourg News Blog
Cobourg Internet Information
- Summary of new Governance System on Cobourg Internet
- Advisory Committees – also governing boards.
Reports by Staff
- Proposed (Draft) By-Law implementing new Governance – now approved
- Staff Report – and description of new system – by Municipal Clerks – 16 October 2023
- Council meeting Schedule for 2024 – (note time change for Standing committee meetings from 1:30 pm to 1:00 pm)