Council to Debate Proposed Governance Change

A report from Town Clerk Brent Larmer plus a proposed implementation by-law will be debated by Council at their next Committee of the Whole (CoW) meeting on 16 October. This change was first proposed in 2021 and has had citizen consultation and Council debate earlier this year. The changes are significant and are said to “streamline processes and improve the efficiency of Town business” and “contribute to an efficient and effective decision-making process”. The revised governance structure is similar to that used in many other municipalities – notably Northumberland County. However, it’s not just the number and role of meetings that’s changed – more details below. The previous system with councillors assigned as coordinators and many advisory committees will be discarded, but opportunities for citizen input will increase.

The bylaw implementing the change will be up for debate at the CoW and, after more citizen consultation, it’s intended to be approved at the CoW on 6 November and in place at the start of 2024.

New Meetings

Note that exact dates of meetings are to be determined annually – the proposed 2024 schedule is available in Resources below.  There will be no meetings of any kind in July and August.  The Mayor attends all meetings although he only chairs the regular Council meeting. As well as Councillors, the CAO (or designate) and other relevant staff will also attend. Citizens may make delegations to all meetings.

Regular Council meeting (as now) – on a new day – Wednesday. Most months on the last Wednesday of the month at 6:00 pm. All Councillors attend.

Standing Committee Strategic Priorities and Policy – mostly first Tuesday at 1:30 pm – all councillors attend. Download pdf with committee responsibilities here.

Corporate, Finance and Legislative Standing Committee – mostly first or second Thursdays at 1:30 pm
There will be three members (including the mayor) – appointed by Council but not yet determined. Download pdf with committee responsibilities here.

Public Works Planning and Development Standing Committee – mostly first or second Wednesday at 9:30 am
There will be three members (including the mayor) – appointed by Council but not yet determined. Download pdf with committee responsibilities here.

Community Services, Protection, and Economic Development Standing Committee – mostly first or second Wednesday at 1:30 pm
There will be three members (including the mayor) – appointed by Council but not yet determined. Download pdf with committee responsibilities here.

So instead of 6 Councillors designated as coordinators, councillors will attend standing committee meetings.

Other meetings

Only the Advisory committee meetings mandated by legislation will continue. These are:

  • Accessibility Advisory Committee
  • Heritage Advisory Committee
  • Committee of Adjustment

Discontinued are:

  • Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Committee
  • Parks and Recreation Advisory Committee
  • Planning and Development Advisory Committee
  • Sustainability and Climate Change Emergency Advisory Committee
  • Transportation Advisory Committee

It’s intended to appoint Ad Hoc committees as required.  These would be called “Task Forces” and would “consider and report on a specific subject, project, or undertaking. When a Task Force has been appointed by Council, the Members will be appointed by By-law. When a Task Force has completed its work and made its final report to Council, the Task Force shall be deemed to be discharged.”

Presentations to Council

Currently, citizens may make presentations or delegations to either the CoW or Regular Council meetings. Instead, three communication methods are proposed:


  • For a matter NOT on the agenda
  • May speak for 10 minutes
  • May not talk about: a matter being litigated, Zoning or official plan matters, a matter not within the jurisdiction of the Council.


A new designation.

Speakers shall be permitted to only speak to items on the Consent Agenda or Items Extracted from the Consent Agenda.

  • May speak for 5 minutes
  • Speakers shall be heard before Council enters into discussion or debate.

Town Hall meetings

An “added opportunity”.

  • “The purpose of a Town Hall Meeting is to allow Members of the public to provide comment and input to Council as a whole.”
  • The Mayor or a majority of Members may petition the Clerk to hold a Town Hall Meeting. Two weeks notice is required.
  • Each Member of the public may speak for up to three minutes.

Other Changes

  • At a Regular Meeting at least 2 Members of Council must agree to move an item from the Consent Agenda to Items Extracted from Consent Agenda. Previously only one councillor need ask.

The CoW on 16 October will be the first opportunity for the public to see the complete proposed change in Governance. The details could be changed by amendments at that meeting and then the proposal will be put on Engage Cobourg for online public comment.

The changes are significant but esoteric so few citizens will fully understand what they mean. I suspect that many will focus on the loss of some advisory committees and ignore other changes with impacts that are not understood.


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7 months ago

Lets have a show of Hand for and against this move

Reply to  Sandpiper
7 months ago

I feel like it doesn’t matter whether you support this new model or you don’t, the vast majority of taxpayers (by a lot) believe that this version of Council has demonstrated a failure to move anything meaningful forward. They are busy dealing with peripheral concerns, working in the business (vs. on the business), attending conferences, infighting which I suspect has a very negative impact on the staff, avoiding accountability, likely pursuing personal objectives rather than aggressively driving value and improving the life of taxpayers – heads in the sand rather than looking at the state of the union. This town is under going very significant change and the change is neither positive or welcomed. Council appears to have no strategy, answers, ideas or suggestions to stop or minimize the negative impact of what is happening. How is it that crime and crime prevention/actions isn’t on the agenda of every meeting?

Cobourg taxpayer
Reply to  Rob
7 months ago

More should attend the Cobourg Police Service Board meeting every month to witness another gong show of incompetence. No discussion of crime prevention there either.

7 months ago

Dyfunction comes from the top!

7 months ago

So we are moving toward fuzzy/fluffy committees and away from more substantial (in % of Budget as well) departments like Planning, Parks and Transportation? Hmm not good. One must ask how these changes will drive efficiencies and effectiveness. Saying so does not make it so.

7 months ago

This is Not Better nothing short of a Gag System .
At the Present time with out Delegated Councilors to a Dept. . or Business area
There Are No opportunities to discuss or Explore issues of any Type ..
No one with any authority ever answers the phone s and Voice mail is never responded to
with in Normal business protocol time lines .
This group of Younger in experienced Rulers Avoid everyone and every issue & Think every thing can be resolved in Emails or by telling you to go through the Online process or interpret
the Dept Good Book on your Own Heck half the Staff don,t understand it .
Some Times Square Pegs need a little Sanding before they will fit into a Round Hole .

Reply to  Sandpiper
7 months ago

Email is not that much better. I emailed the planning dept on the 3rd of Oct. Still have not had a reply. Our contractor has had the same issue. We have now given up on our plans. Given up on hiring local contractors etc because the planning dept makes it next to impossible to move forward. On average a month or longer for a reply. It’s beyond a disgrace. Zero accountability.

7 months ago

This item/topic should not be eligible for consideration until the next municipal election, and at that time it will be an issue for voters to 1.) decide either by adding the proposal as a voting item or 2.) by what those running for councillor or Mayor support and voters can vote for them or against them.

This process is another example of Leadership (particularly Mayor Cleveland) throwing in personal agenda items when there are more important issues and problems being faced by Coubourg right now which are not being addressed under the guise of “oh it not my responsibility”. Everything has become complicated over the last 11 months.

Town Council is elected by the voters and their responsibility is to the voters – not themselves.

7 months ago

Congratulations to the drafters of this plan for making a bad system worse. From coordinators to no-name committee members just who will the Council call on for advice and grievances?

There will be two opportunities for the Public to address Council – at the Standing Committees and for a five minute speech at the Council meeting about the Agenda or ten minutes on whatever they feel like saying. The third opportunity will be at a yet to be decided “Town Hall” meeting.

Less opportunities not more. The system now is to be able to speak at an advisory committee, a CoW and a Council meeting and at a rarely called “Town Hall”

The Town now sets the Ontario record for the least number of Council Committees and by having only three members of Council on a Standing Committee runs the risk of longer, not more efficient, Council meetings as the members of Council debate issues coming from standing committees that they never sat on and want put their two cents worth in on the topic.

Bottom line:

  • less informed Councillors
  • A public that does not have access to speaking opportunities
  • no Public input via advisory committees
  • The destruction of a Century of tradition by moving the Council meeting from Monday to Wednesday
  • Placing most meetings out of public access by having meetings during the day at a time inconvenient to most

Last note; having participated in this process from the start I cannot see any amendment from the public to the original paper produced by Mr Larmer. If that is the case it is a damning indictment of the phrase “Public Engagement”.

Cobourg taxpayer
8 months ago

It would be truly wonderful if the governance changes “streamlined processes and improved the efficiencies of town business” and “contributed to efficient/effective decision making” which, after 20 years of following council and staff business and decision making, is sorely needed. But once again is there a way to measure streamlining, efficiencies and effectiveness of council and staff? What specific improvements will the taxpayer be looking for?
As far as public input goes, council almost always accepts input for information purposes, and when an item is directed to staff for a report there is rarely follow up and accountability.So the taxpayer can feel all warm and fuzzy that there’ll be lots of opportunities for speaking to council but will it make any difference?

Ken Strauss
Reply to  Cobourg taxpayer
8 months ago

Essentially meaningless words such as “streamlined processes and improving the efficiencies of town business” and “efficient/effective decision making” shouldn’t be allowed to justify anything.

  • What are the inefficiencies in the current system?
  • Exactly how will efficiency be improved?
  • Exactly how will we get more effective decision making from the same decision makers?
  • Are there any downsides to the proposed changes?
  • Will there be a cost to the proposed changes?
  • Other municipalities have two rather than four standing committees so why is Cobourg to be different?
  • How will the efficacy of the more “effective decision making” be evaluated and verified?
  • Do we have a backup plan in case there are unforeseen problems?

Without convincing answers to these and many more questions nobody should think that the changes will achieve anything other than more wasted effort and floundering of our Councillors.

Reply to  Ken Strauss
8 months ago

One wonders if there is floundering due to the floundering of our Councillors or, in the first place, from the floundering of our bureaucrats/staff in the process of governance, which is considered to be a more responsive system?

Reply to  marya
7 months ago

Do you and Ken mean just the Councillors or the whole Council that is floundering? Are the Mayor and Deputy Mayor included in your assessments?

Reply to  Frenchy
7 months ago

Yes, Frenchy, given that all have staff, all are included. There are notorious examples of “disconnections” in other levels of government and it appears to me that the same is true in our municipal one.

Ken Strauss
Reply to  marya
7 months ago

Agreed! Based on watching recent Council meetings only Ms. Mutton appears to have bothered to give any thought to the various issues. Mostly silence with the occasional dumb comment plus no apparent interest in addressing Cobourg’s problems — rampant petty crime/drugs/vagrants, high taxes, unfinished business, numerous “master plans” but no results…

Ken Strauss
8 months ago

The allocation of speaking time for the various types of “Presentations to Council” is puzzling.

One will be allowed only 5 minutes to discuss a topic that is on the agenda and of immediate importance to residents. Previously individual delegations were allowed 10 minutes or 15-minutes for multi-person delegations. Five minutes is far too little time to present detailed comments on a complicated issue.

Why do non-agenda related topics warrant wasting 10 minutes of Council time while items of immediate importance get only 5 minutes? In the past most non-agenda related delegations have been irrelevant posturing on feel good topics rather than something of actual importance to a pending Council decision.