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City Council committee of the whole trial won’t be abandoned

Councillors voted 4-2 to keep the committee of the whole operating, at least until February
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Elliot Lake city hall is pictured in this file photo. Melanie Farenzena/ElliotLakeToday

A majority of Elliot Lake councillors are not prepared to drop the committee of the whole structure in favour of a return to standing committees.

In July, council decided to replace its standing committees, set up to deal with issues raised by the city’s various departments before bringing requests to council for a vote, on a trial basis. The success of the trial was set to be assessed by council in February.

The standing committees generally had two councillors appointed, while the committee of the whole is operated with all councillors present to discuss issues brought to council by department heads. The committee of the whole is designed to have councillors discuss the various department issues and requests before they are sent to regular council for approval.

At Monday evening’s committee of the whole meeting, councillors voted 4-2 to keep the committee of the whole operating, at least until February.

Councillor Ed Pearce presented a notice of motion calling for the reinstatement of the standing committee structure.

In his motion the councillor, who was recently appointed to council after a previous councillor resigned, called the committee of the whole structure, “cumbersome and counter productive.”

In his motion, he called for council to reinstate the standing committees effective at its regular council meeting on Nov. 27.

Councillor Pearce said the current committee of the whole structure involves more work and time being committed to council and committee of the whole meetings that are held on alternating Monday evenings.

The councillor also stated committee of the whole meetings can run several hours.

“With three, four hours in length, the meetings can be more taxing to staff and council,” Councillor Pearce said.

Councillor Luc Cyr disagreed, pointing to the shorter time spent on committee of the whole business on Monday evening with the meeting running about two hours.

“Given an honest chance… I think we need to give it a fair chance with staff and with council because we’re just beginning,” the councillor said in his support of continuing the initial trial period for the committee of the whole.

Mayor Dan Marchisella also wasn’t prepared to support the motion.

Councillor Tammy VanRoon also could not support the motion. She said has experienced long meetings both at the standing committee level and committee of the whole.

“I’m committed to completing this six-month trial,” she said. “When it comes time to having a discussion about whether or not to continue the committee of the whole I would like staff included in that discussion.”

“Members of the public have been more engaged,” she added.

Councillor Chris Patrie gave his support to the motion, stating the committee of the whole process is, “very taxing on our staff.”

He suggested all of council could attend standing committee meetings to get the information required and offer input on issues raised at that level of discussion.

Councillor Patrie was appointed to council a week ago to fill a vacant position left after a second councillor resigned.

Councillor Connie Nykyforak also couldn’t support the motion.

“I don’t think we’ve had enough time,” she said.

She noted that with council and committee of the whole meetings covered live on cable, city residents have an opportunity to follow issues that are discussed by councillors and the reasons for some of council’s decisions.

Only councillors Pearce and Patrie voted in favour of the motion with the remaining councillors opposed. Councillor Norman Mann was absent from the meeting.


About the Author: Kris Svela

Kris Svela has worked in community newspapers for the past 36 years covering politics, human interest, courts, municipal councils, and the wide range of other topics of community interest
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