Proposed bylaw will abolish committee of the whole meetings

A proposed bylaw that would change the format of regular meetings of Mapleton council received preliminary support last week, but it was not unanimous.
Several councillors express­ed concern eliminating the com­mittee of the whole would restrict the amount of discussion and debate on vari­ous topics. Currently Mapleton holds a council meeting the second Tuesday of a month and a committee of the whole meeting on the fourth Tuesday.
During the discussion of the procedural bylaw there was some confusion over what the difference is between the two.
“Maybe we’re getting hung up on what we call it more than anything else,” councillor Bruce Whale.
Mayor John Green explain­ed all decisions made by the committee of the whole have to be ratified at council, which means it can take up to five or six weeks to pass basic items.
The idea behind moving to two council meetings is to expedite the process of passing bylaws, Green said. “There’s no attempt to circumvent the current system.”
Treasurer Mike Givens said he favours moving to two council meetings a month to to help eliminate long waits for decisions .
But councillor Mike Down­ey said while council and committee of the whole meetings comprise the same personnel, there are different rules for the two types of meetings. He said in the past there were formal committee meetings, then the township moved to the committee of the whole format to discuss matters in various de­partments. Now, he said, council would eliminate those op­portunities for discussion.
“I don’t read it that way,” Green said, adding there will be discussion during both council meetings.
Clerk Patty Sinnamon agreed with the mayor.
“I think [Mapleton is] small enough to disperse with the com­mittee of the whole meetings,” Sinnamon said. “I don’t think it takes away the opportunity to review any information.” She said there would still be full debate on all issues.
But Downey said council can rise and report at committee of the whole and pass any bylaws it deems necessary.
“I tend to agree,” said councillor Jim Curry.
Sinnamon said committee meetings would be much long­er if council had to rise and report at each one to pass bylaws. She added staff fav­ours having two council meetings.
Whale also said he does not really see the difference if coun­cil can ultimately pass bylaws at either style of meeting. “To me it’s six of one; half a dozen of the other,” he said. “It’s semantics we’re playing with.”
However, Whale said if it makes less work for staff and speeds things up in the eyes of the public, he sees no problem with having two council meetings per month.
Green said he was struggling to understand the concerns expressed, and again explained the goal is expediting the approval process.
“I don’t see how this makes us any more vulnerable than in the past,” he said.
Ultimately, when it came time for a vote, a resolution to proceed with a public meeting on the procedural bylaw was pass­ed 2-1, with Curry and Whale in favour and Downey oppos­ed. Councillor Dennis Cra­ven was absent.