Following next year’s municipal election, the city will be made up of eight wards, each represented by one full-time councillor, as well as a mayor. That’s if current council members concur with the recommendation from a team of consultants hired to review council’s composition.
“The smaller number of councillors could reduce residents’ access to those councillors, but the fact that the wards themselves will be smaller and the councillors would be playing a full-time role could well offset that apparent reduction,” states the report from Watson and Associates Economists Ltd. “Making the position full time will also likely make the position attractive to a broader cross-section of the population.”
Council is set to discuss the report, released Thursday morning, during a special meeting on June 21, beginning at 6 p.m., with a decision meeting slated for June 23, also getting underway at 6 p.m. Both meetings will be streamed live at guelph.ca/live.
The city currently features six wards, with two part-time councillors elected from each, in addition to a mayor who is elected at-large.
“Future councillors will be making very difficult decisions about growth and development; they will need to be able to devote their full time on an undistracted basis to city business,” said the consultants’ report. “If Guelph is going to take advantage of the opportunities available to it, it will need councillors who have the time and resources to devote to the role.”
Any changes made would come into place following next year’s municipal election, provided there are no appeals filed or, if there are, they can be resolved by Jan. 1.
The cost of shifting to eight full-time councillors, along with support staff, is $303,050 annually, notes a staff report on the recommendations. That’s in addition to between $198,000 and $237,000 in one-time funding to provide office and meeting spaces.
If the changes are approved by council, the city’s remuneration and support advisory committee would begin working on recommendations for councillor and mayor salaries and benefits. Those are expected to come forward early next year.
This current system has been in place “without significant modification” since 1990, notes the consultants’ report. At that time, the city’s population was in the range of 90,000. It currently sits at about 143,000.
It had been that way since 1909, though the number of councillors varied. At one time there were as many as 18.
“Guelph is at a notable point in its history. It has grown significantly over the last 30 years. It is now about to embark on another period of major growth which will change the character of the city,” states the consultants’ report.” This type of growth gives a city the opportunity to transform its governance structure.”
The deadline to register as a delegate or make a written submission for the June 21 council meeting is June 18 at 10 a.m. To register, visit guelph.ca/delegation, call 519-837-5603 or email email@example.com.