by Shaun McLaughlin 

first published in Shaun on Council 

On March 5, I wrote about a decision to take the question of a change in Council composition to the public. I applauded that decision as open and democratic. On April 2, a subset of Council likely killed that process.

As part of a regular Committee of the Whole meeting, we reviewed a plan from the town clerk, Rob Tremblay, to organize public meetings in late April and early May to explain the seven composition options and to distribute a ballot.

After we discussed aspects of the plan, the chair put it to a vote. Three members were absent that night: the Mayor and councillors Gillis and Abbott. That gave the four members least interested in changing the composition numerical equality with those who advocated a change.

Councillors Minnille, Ferguson, Dalgity and I voted yes to the clerk’s public participation plan. With eight members at the table, just four in favor created a tie. Under our procedural rules, a tie is a defeat. The four who did not support the motion were councillors Edwards, Watters, Wilkinson and Cameron. Under our rules, a defeated motion cannot be voted on again unless two-thirds of Council agrees.

The vote does not end the possibility of changing the composition of Council. Individual members can move a motion to change the size and composition. If any such motion wins a majority, it ends the debate without involving the public in a meaningful way. It may be possible to resurrect the public process by putting forward a plan that is substantial different than the defeated version. We will see.