Council meetings are boring? Never!
Well, sometimes they are...but not always.
Okay, I realize that for most people, sitting through hours of a council meeting is likely the last thing they want to do. However, I find it fascinating. That’s partly because I think there is so much happening at local council meetings that affects our daily experience of living in a city, that it’s worth tuning in. There are also lots of interesting scenarios that arise during these meetings that leave me wanting to better understand the process of how these decisions are made. Let me provide just one recent example.
At Septmeber’s Kitchener Council meeting, Councillor Chapman (ward 9) brought forth a motion for council to urge the provincial government to establish a guaranteed livable basic income (GLBI). Click to read the full motion, but essentially it stated that “the City of Kitchener requests that the Government of Canada and the Province of Ontario work collaboratively to establish an income-tested GLBI to combat poverty, income inequality and economic insecurity within our community.”
Several other local councils have passed similar motions recently so I believed this motion would pass easily. Councillor Chapman brought the motion forward and a delegation of two spoke to the value of a basic income. The delegates did a wonderful job and I highly recommend watching their delegation and their responses to questions from council. It starts at the 2:09:40 mark.
So, a solid motion and a strong delegation for basic income will lead to this motion passing easily, right? Not so. Councillor Schnider (ward 2) put forth a motion to defer Chapman's motion. His reason? "Since this was brought forward by a member that's running for provincial office we need to defer this until after the provincial election." (You can watch it, starting at ~2:31:20)
Well, that’s something I haven’t seen before - a motion to defer because the councillor who put forth the original motion is currently running for a provincial seat. It definitely left me with many questions.
What's the process on something like this?
Did councillors know this deferral was coming or was it a spur of the moment thing?
Does this have any broader implications or apply only to a specific motion? For example, can Chapman and Clancy (the ward 10 councillor who is also running for the provincial seat) bring any motions to council while running for MPP?
Or, is the issue that this motion involves the provincial government, the same level of government that Chapman (and Clancy) are running for?
While I’m still looking for answers to many of the questions above, here is my understanding so far. It seemed Councillor Chapman had some prepared remarks about why this motion should still be allowed, so I suspect that Councillor Schnider likely informed her prior to the meeting that he would be raising the deferral. I don’t know of any official protocol that would require councillors to give such notice, however. Given this particular issue was urging action at the provincial level, I suspect that is why there was concern about someone who is running at the provincial level, bringing that forth. I suspect both Chapman and Clancy are still welcome to bring other motions forward, while running for MPP, as long as they don’t relate to provincial matters specifically.
Council approved the motion to defer this issue until after the provincial election is held (Everyone voted in favour of the deferral except for Chapman, Clancy, Deneault, and Vrbanovic, passing 7-4). The provincial by-election still hasn’t been called yet, but must be announced by mid-January. Which brings to mind another question: When the basic income motion comes back to council, the person who brought it forth originally (Chapman), may no longer be a city councillor. What happens then? I don’t yet have an answer to that one!
While there are still many questions to be answered, one thing for certain is that I feel badly for the delegates who spoke to the basic income motion and now have to wait months for a result. It seems there should be a better process to avoid the frustration for those delegates of waiting in limbo. While this particular issue may not be as pressing as some, for anyone who has delegated to council, you generally want to know what’s decided upon as soon as possible.
The next Citified post is all about transit advertising wraps, since Regional Council is considering allowing wraps on more buses, and even on an ion train. Staff recommend this as a way to increase funding for transit without impacting the tax levy. What do you think about this idea?