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Council moves to Tuesday meetings next term, times may change

Committee of the whole unanimously approved schedule, though times to be decided after the election
20201026 Guelph Council Chambers RV
Guelph city council chambers. GuelphToday file photo

In an effort to be more accessible to a wider variety of people, city council and committee meetings could be moved to morning sessions next term, rather than the current mix of afternoon and evening meetings, and held on Tuesday instead of Monday.

Council’s committee of the whole unanimously approved a shift to Tuesday meetings, with start times to be reviewed, followed by public consultation and decided by the next term of council.

Staff recommended at 10 a.m. start time for all meetings.

“Traditionally, evening meetings have favoured people working 9 to 5 type jobs and have disadvantaged those working evenings, afternoons or night shifts,” states a staff report, supporting the 10 a.m. start time. “Research indicates that racialized communities are disproportionately exposed to contract, temporary, part-time, and shift work with poor job security, low wages and benefits, and also less flexibility.”

Council members aren’t convinced daytime meetings are the answer, with members pondering the impact such a change could have on the availability of people who have already registered for the election or are considering doing so. 

The question of child/elder care also came up as a potential deterrent – both to maintaining the current timing of meetings or making changes.

“Our ultimate goal is to include as many people as possible,” said Coun. Leanne Caron, referring to both members of the public and delegates to council, as well as those who are considering running for an elected position in this fall’s municipal election.

As detailed in the staff report, there were 82 council and committee meetings held in 2020 and 86 in 2021. Last year, 41 of those ended after 9 p.m., up from 29 in 2020.

“Meeting length and adjournment time affects the ability of all participants (the public,city council and staff) to make good decisions,” the report continues. “Meetings which extend past 9 p.m. strain the ability of participants to think effectively and focus on important decisions. 

“Late evening adjournment times also have negative effects on delegates who are, at times, forced to wait until the late evening hours to appear before city council.”

If ratified by council – consideration is expected to happen during the monthly council meeting on July 18 – the meeting schedule will be focused on Tuesday gatherings, with a report and recommendation presented to the next term of council early next year.

Currently, open sessions of the committee of the whole begin at 2 p.m. with council meetings getting underway at 6 or 6:30 p.m. Special and budget-specific meetings have had varying start times.

In addition to schedule changes, the committee-approved motion also makes note of several cultural and religious occasions not currently recognized on council’s calendar.