Grande Prairie City Council has proposed a few changes to how their Tuesday committee meetings are run, based on time management and transparency concerns.
The choice to move into a council “committee of the whole” format versus the current subcommittee format has been a split issue in council for some time, and Deputy Mayor Gladys Blackmore says she questions why the current structure is still being utilized at all.
“I’ve certainly questioned why we have standing committees when they operate like council committee of the whole,” she says.
Currently, it has become a trend for all nine members of council to attend committee meetings, speak, and debate on issues whether they are a member of that committee or not, which has caused significant time delays, and what some councillors call a lack of communication between council and members of the public. Despite her concerns, Blackmore says she thinks that using the subcommittee format is preferable, if they are used properly.
“It is my preference that we use standing committees as they were intended to be used,” she says. “It creates a better debate at council table, but it also gives the community an opportunity to know- oh this is coming to council, and its important to me and these are the people I need to talk to, or this is when I need to come to council as a delegate.”
Blackmore says it is no secret that the opportunity for public engagement is more present during Monday evening meetings, simply based on the viewership, and the meetings occurring outside of the workday.
Many councillors say Tuesday morning committee meetings have become the place where the bulk of debate and discussions occur, leading to official council meetings on Monday becoming a formality.
Councillor Dylan Bressey says the issue is simply one of spending time more effectively, and trust between councillors.
“If we work in subcommittees it allows us to spend more governance hours overseeing this organization,” he says. “We can go more in-depth with conversations that need to be more in-depth if we’re splitting up the work rather than insisting that all nine of us be part of every conversation.”
The issue was discussed during Tuesday’s committee of the whole meeting and is slated to be discussed once again during council’s next Monday meeting.