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City looking at changing the way it does business

Staff recommending switch to committee of the whole model
20160201 Guelph City Hall Council Chambers KA

The City of Guelph is looking at changing the way it conducts its business.

City staff is recommending that the city move to a committee of the whole governance model, doing away with the five standing committees it currently uses.

It says the move would be more efficient and effective for the decision making process and better for the public. The recommendation goes to the city's governance committee on April 7 and then to council for discussion and possible approval on April 25.

"It's good for the public and that's the real goal here," said city clerk Stephen O'Brien, "to streamline, make things easier to understand and makes things more accessible for the public - to access the decision making of their council."

Under the proposed new model, all city councillors would sit as one for committee meetings, allowing them all to participate in agenda item discussions, address delegations and staff, and vote on decisions while an item is at the committee stage.

When the item comes to the full council meeting at the end of the month, everyone has already had their say and most of their questions answered.

O'Brien said if approved the new model, which would hopefully mean shorter council meetings, would likely be in place for September.

Guelph has always used a standing committee model, although the size and scope of the committees has changed over the years, as recently as 2014. The city currently has five of them: audit, corporate services, governance, infrastructure and development and public services.

The committee of the whole model would see all 13 members of council meet on committee matters, rather than individual committees consisting of just five councillors.

It makes the discussion and decisions at the committee level more inclusive of council, O'Brien said.

"That was certainly a sentiment expressed," he said of the reasons put forth by councillors that wanted change.

"Quite frankly at those standing committees, we'll have five members of the committee and often we'll have three or four other visiting councillors. They can have dialogue with the committee but they're not permitted to take part in the voting process. This was seen as a way to address that."

O'Brien said one of the main benefits is that it could be seen as helping the public understand the process better. That they need to go to council once to address all of council rather than attend a committee with just five councillors on it.

Certain significant annual standing committees, such as the budget committee, would remain.

The recommendation comes out of the meeting management review process that staff conducted, O'Brien said, adding that a number of comparative municipalities use the committee of the whole model.

The full staff report on the proposed changes can be found at guelph.ca/council

The public can have its say at the April 7 meeting of the governance committee and at the April 25 meeting of council. Delegations must register in advance.




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