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City council going back in time ... with earlier meetings

All council and committee meetings will start at 4 p.m. in 2021 if decision is ratified; 'I really do not think that is a fair thing to do,' laments Coun. Jay Fallis
screenshot of city council meeting oct 2020
Start times for council meetings and council committee meetings will be 4 p.m in 2021 if a decision made this week is ratified at Monday's city council meeting.

Although one city councillor said “it’s not fair to the public,” all council meetings will begin at 4 p.m. in 2021.

The majority of council agreed to the change at this week’s council committee meeting; the decision is subject to ratification at Monday’s council meeting.

Since April, when the pandemic reared its ugly head, council’s committee meetings and council meetings have started at 4 p.m. Previously, they had begun at 6 p.m.

The new time slot has “worked very well,” said Mayor Steve Clarke.

Coun. Jay Fallis agreed that the short-term solution was “OK” in a pandemic, but he is not a fan of the time being permanent.

“I think doing this on a permanent basis is really not fair to the public,” said Fallis, noting such a move would “limit people from participating.”

While most members of the current council have flexible jobs, not everyone has that luxury, said Fallis.

“If we move this permanently to a 4 p.m. time slot it’s going to eliminate a lot of people from having the ability to run for council if they work a 9 to 5 job, which a lot of people do,” he said.

“I really do not think that is a fair thing to do (if) we’re wanting to keep an open, democratic process and not trying to restrict people.”

But Coun. Tim Lauer pointed out many people work nights, which would preclude them from throwing their hat in the ring if evening meetings were the norm.

More importantly, he said, the earlier time slot allows the municipal government to make decisions when council members are not tired and weary.

“The 4 p.m. start avoids those bad decisions people make at 11 or 12 at night when they’ve been up too long,” said Lauer. “I think 4 p.m. is working perfectly. I haven’t heard any complaints at all. With the technology we have, everybody can get some sort of access.”

Coun. Ted Emond agreed, noting the past two meetings would have gone on long after 11 p.m. if council had started at its traditional time of 6 or 7 p.m.

Fallis countered council could have a process in place to avoid that, rather than just move to an earlier start time.

That is easier said than done - especially with the complicated “files” in progress, Emond noted.

“The amount of work we’re facing over the next couple of years is pretty substantial,” said Emond, noting the earlier start time gives council an “opportunity to do it in a time when we’re a little fresher.”

He also stressed “formal council meetings” make up just one-third of his time commitment to his job as a councillor and that potential candidates must have a degree of flexibility to do the job.

“Look, if anybody really wants to do this, it’s not just what they see on television,” said Emond, noting there’s “a lot more” to the job.

Emond also favours an early start time for the sake of city staff.

He noted there were 31 people “on the call” as part of Monday’s virtual meeting. Outside of mayor and council, that means 22 people (staff and others) were on hand to participate as needed during the almost five-hour-long meeting.

“City staff are obliged by their role to be here throughout the entire meetings,” said Emond, noting an earlier start time reduces the need for them to work extra hours.

Coun. David Campbell suggested a compromise - a 5 p.m. start - but that idea did not garner enough support.

In the end, the majority of council voted in favour of having all council committee meetings and council meetings begin at 4 p.m.

A full schedule of meetings for 2021 will be posted on the city’s website once the decision is ratified.


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Dave Dawson

About the Author: Dave Dawson

Dave Dawson is community editor of
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