New Governance Approved by Cobourg Council

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:

  1. Subjects NOT on the Agenda – Delegations – as now and requiring 9 days notice
  2. 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”.

Final Approval

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

Reports by Staff

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3 months ago

I for one do not believe that at this late time in the game for this Council & Mayor
to have wasted 1/2 of their term to get to this point, that its going to Expedite anything .

In fact after speaking with several of Council they still have a town with Left and Right hand s that are not connected . They have No idea what the departments under them are doing or even how said departments even arrive at the decisions they do.

3 months ago

Perhaps a new form of governance will move things through quicker – certainly worth a change when you look at all the unfinished business in past years. As far as improving safety Peterborough can’t do it, Toronto has been dealing with this problem much longer and are strapped by Federal laws which curtail arrests and clearing of encampments.
I look forward to the enactment of this change and to view results.

3 months ago

I’m so happy that Council has now decided on what clothes to wear to work…Now maybe they can get down to work and make this town safer to live in…Just the “Basics” please, and most of us will be happy.

3 months ago

I am amazed and truly thankful for the tremendous amount of dedication, time and work that goes into the creations of all articles on this blog in order to keep everyone so well informed!

Old Sailor
3 months ago

Congrats to Council on reorganizing their Governance system.
I hope that appointing a Task Force on helping resolve our Homeless related issues is at the top of their minds. Strange how one Councilor pushed to have immediate action on the Integrated Community Sustainability Plan (ICSP). What was she thinking?? What percentage of Cobourg taxpayers think Council should put local climate change initiatives at the top of their Task Force objectives??
I am wondering if Council, the County and the Province  are actively engaged in preventing the rebirth of the Brookside encampment in Spring 2024. It could re-emerge on a much larger scale. The encampment leaders know they will be supported by all of the Town, County and Provincial service providers with free, no recourse services? A good topic for the Dec. 5 meeting at the CCC.