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Councillors favour committee of whole style meetings

By Ross Lees
Prince Edward County councillor Keith MacDonald suggested the old way of operating council could be the better way, during Thursday afternoon’s committee of the whole meeting.
During discussion of the procedural bylaw review, MacDonald noted he would like to see council go back to operating with committees of council rather than a committee of the whole format.  He said the committee system allowed for more detailed discussion of topics.
“I would like to see us go back to the committee system and I’ll put a motion on the floor to that effect if I can get a seconder,” he said.
Councillor Heather Campbell promptly seconded the motion to allow for discussion of the topic.
MacDonald’s fear the motion would get little or no support from the remainder of council was well founded.
Mayor Peter Mertens was quick to point out the committee of the whole method of operation was clearly supported in the procedural bylaw and he argued the process was much more efficient, and far less time consuming.
“It allows council to focus on the items that need to be focused on; it avoids duplication and I believe exposing all council members to discussion in the committee of the whole has served us well,” he said.
Councillors Robert Quaiff and Terry Shortt indicated they had committed to living with and observing the committee of the whole system for one year of their term even though both were more familiar with the committee system from former terms on council.
Councillor Campbell said she had experienced both systems and she felt the committee of the whole system was much more beneficial.
“It creates a reduction of duplication of discussion,” she said, noting she often found under the committee system that discussion would take place at the committee level then re-occur at the council level. “I find we get the proper discussion going at the committee of the whole and it’s open to the public to hear, also. I find it puts councillors on a more equal footing about what is going on in the municipality. I found under the committee system councillors used to specialize in certain areas and they might not know other areas very well. Under the committee of the whole system, discussion takes place among us all and I feel that today, with the steps we’ve taken, it will make it even more efficient.”
MacDonald disagreed and was the lone vote in favour.

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