Councillors give their thoughts on Governance

A revised way of holding Council Meetings under the heading of “Governance” may be the single biggest action of Council in its term – so please excuse the multiple posts on the subject.  At their Committee of the Whole meeting on Monday, Councillors were asked to approve the draft by-Law implementing the change but instead they made comments and deferred a decision to a special meeting to be held after more public consultation.  Councillors generally accepted the idea of changing to the “Standing Committee” model – there was no discussion of other options such as maintaining the current structure.  It looks like the change is a done deal – only minor tweaks are being discussed.  A change looks likely in January 2024.

Councillor Comments – highlights

Adam Bureau – was concerned about meeting times and the number of people on each committee (Draft by-law specifies the Mayor and two councillors for three of the four committees and all councillors for one – see Standing Committee responsibilities in Resources).

Brian Darling  – liked the proposal – commented that a single coordinator had the risk that a portfolio could be dominated by a strongly opinionated dominant personality.  Multiple councillors would mitigate this.

Aaron Burchat – noted that the time limits for speakers could be extended by the chair if necessary.  He thought that perhaps 2 committees would be better than the four proposed.  He noted that the proposal provided more opportunities for residents to speak.

Miriam Mutton – suggested that there be fewer restrictions on what speakers could talk about.  She thought that the change would mean she would be attending more meetings than now.  She suggested that more committees should require attendance of 100% of Councillors.  The new structure may require additional staff.

Randy Barber – has experience with the proposed structure and it worked well although he is not expressing a preference for one system or the other.  He stressed that the proposed by-Law would be a living document and subject to changes with time.

Nicole Beatty – commented that AMO (Association of Municipalities of Ontario) said that Cobourg was one of the few Councils still using the Coordinator Structure. She liked the move of Council meetings to Wednesday – it would mean less work on weekends for Councillors and Staff. She also suggested a “per diem” since some meetings are during the work day – although she understood that this would be a budget discussion.  She liked the move from Advisory committees to Task Forces – it would mean more focus.  An example would be an ICSP task force.

Lucas Cleveland – Said that “good governance is hard to define”.  He noted that Advisory committee members felt their recommendations were ignored and Lucas thought that Council would be more likely to act on task force recommendations.   Overall, the change should not be expected to be perfect – just an improvement – it can be modified.

After all Councillors made their comments, they passed a motion to convene a special meeting after more public engagement was held.  The meeting would consider amendments suggested by Councillors and the public although there did seem to be a consensus that there should be a change to the Standing Committee structure.  No date was specified although it’s likely to be before the previous target of approval by Nov 6.  When the date is known, there will be an update here.


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Cobourg taxpayer
7 months ago

I didn’t think it was possible for the current council to be more ineffective than the previous council but they’re on the same path. Just make some final decisions, get something done and move on to the next item. More public engagement is not necessary as no one listened or acted on the last input, so pass this useless say nothing plan and move on. Take a look at the CPS budget with a $2 million discrepancy or the $244000 spent on cybersecurity or the increasing crime around town.

Reply to  Cobourg taxpayer
7 months ago

Cobourg is a small, rural community, NOT a city and it’s time our Council/town staff realized that and stopped trying to govern as if we were Toronto… I think that reducing the numbers of town staff, getting rid of the empire building that’s going on within the Town Hall “Realm” and by necessity, then, streamlining processes, we would be much better off – things would get accomplished quickly and effectively, without the endless red tape produced by staffers who are trying to justify their high salaries or their very existence. Apply never-ending and increasing pressure on Queen’s Park to deal with the encampment on their land (i.e. Brookside) – what about legal action to force their hands to action? — with the objective of getting Cobourg back to the SMALL TOWN we used to all love. Council – Get back to basics; Instead of trying to figure out HOW to govern – JUST DO IT and those town staffers who stand in your way, just push them aside – go around them – go over them – do whatever you have to do to put an end to their relentless production of red tape – get to the root cause of all our problems – come up with a workable solution and JUST DO IT!

7 months ago

they passed a motion to convene a special meeting after more public engagement was held.”

If this is not an exercise in total ignorance or absolute arrogance I don’t know how else to describe the above statement.

Public engagement so far has been:

  • A survey online
  • An open house
  • A public meeting held in the Council Chamber

Not one word has been changed on the proposal paper written by Mr Larmer since he designed the change and wrote the paper way back in the early year – months ago.

Who on earth will now believe that is has not been a ‘done deal’ or if any change will come about?

This is a perfect example of a failed public engagement process already. Please don’t waste any more time on it – you can’t put lipstick on a pig.

Just give the Mayor and the Staff what they want and move on. Because any person wanting to engage in public engagement has already written the process off as a total waste of effort and time!

7 months ago

It’s funny. There are a whole bunch of posts saying ‘just get on with it’, and in other threads, there are posts about ‘why weren’t we consulted’?

Fickle bunch.

Having had the privilege to travel the world, our only true issue is we aren’t getting value for the tax dollar. All the other inconveniences are just that – inconveniences.

But, at least I get to have my morning chuckle!

Reply to  NAI
7 months ago

I interpreted “just get on with it” to mean for the Mayor and Council members to stop over complicating everything they touch. You don’t need to reinvent the wheel just because the Mayor views his mandate as a restructure mandate – which it is/was not. Just do the job as it stands.

Use the system that is in place. A new Governance Proposal is not a priority of Taxpayers. This is a matter for the next election and to vote on.

What is a priority to residents/taxpayers is for Council and CPS to get a grip and develop a plan on how to deal with the mess Cobourg has gotten itself in over the past 11 months – which is worsening (drugs, crime, encampment, enablers). Leadership need to understand that the County nor the Province are not going to fix it, or make it their priority. Coubourg’s Leadership are the ones that need to deal with this – they are the ultimate decision makers.

7 months ago

How about all the time going into STRs Short Term Rental issues these days
Re Zoning of all Housing categories to allow it , Licencing , Inspection of Units ?? and Hiring more staff at By Law here too . How many New hires has that been this month alone ??
5 years behind all other Communities with the Exception of Grafton Council on STRs
but still way behind . and NOW not only is the Province Reversing their out look on STRs but this morning CTV News —-Announced that the Feds . are now Putting a Halt on and Reversing the use of Housing , Apts, and Condos etc for STRS . as they are sucking the
housing market dry with unRegulated under the table Hotel industry Which at present is Not permitted in this Town B & Bs are . So Why not Just Enforce what we have now .
Maybe the Town should just issue the Approval of the New Hotel on DePalma Dr. if you want more Tourists this has been stalled in Planning for more than 5 yrs now yet Talked about by Venture 13 staff as a done deal . V 13 there’s another Albatros we have to Support .
Stop STRs etc Now ! — Quit wasting Tax Payers Time and Money and get some of the really needed and Important issues Tackled . I am sure the Readers here could contribute & provide a starting list of Items both New and unfinished — if Someone at Council asked .

Ken Strauss
7 months ago

Mr. Darling’s criticism of the current Coordinator System was that a single, competent, Councillor might get results. What is his solution? Of course: Combine several Councillors into a committee to ensure mediocrity or worse!

Reply to  Ken Strauss
7 months ago

With a committee, or a board of directors, no one person is responsible. The entire committee is to blame if things go wrong. It protects the ‘snow flakes’. Individuals can feel better about themselves because they can blame the rest of the committee. But it leads to mediocre results and nobody really feeling good about their personal accomplishments. Why are so many town employees depressed? They have well paying secure jobs with good benefits, this is much better than many people. Is it because there is a culture of not doing your best? Work too hard and you are told to slow down as a former Toronto city employee told me. It was not an easy thing to adjust to. To really do your best you need to give up your secure job and go out on your own. Not an easy thing to do.

Reply to  Kevin
7 months ago

Sorry Kevin but the work ethic has taken a hit everywhere.Working in the GTA in commercial trucking I worked with many who thought it was a 9-5 job not answering their radios – we were radio dispatched, not learning the skills needed, not using their Perly guides. My days were often maxed to the full hours of service, you would think myself and 2 others were the only drivers they had. My wife was astounded when she decided to enter contract work in multiple companies throughout the GTA. The number of employees who were late every day, spent an over proportionate time on personal phone calls, who said it is not my job. We both also worked long term for the City – then Metro Toronto. As the years went by toward the time we left a culture of entitlement to the pay cheque without performance took place. It was disappointing to find it in private industry when we left thinking their would be reward for a job well done.

7 months ago

Stop talking about “How” you’re going to do it, and “Just Do It”.

Reply to  cornbread
7 months ago

It will be done just before the next Election
No Progress until then Wait for It .

7 months ago

…”She (Nicole) also suggested a “per diem” since some meetings are during the work day – although she understood that this would be a budget discussion”……

Wait. What?? Wasn’t it Nicole who made an impassioned speech before voting down giving Council a pay raise less than a year ago?

7 months ago

This all reminds me of my teaching days, staff meetings discussing how to deal with students being late for class. There will always be students late for class, stop wasting time trying new ideas and get on with teaching. Will these proposed changes make any difference to how the town services are provided? Just because many other municipalities are using a different model does not mean they are doing better. There are lots of examples in education of wasted efforts changing things that really made no difference to student learning. Will our buses run better for less cost? Will our streets be cleaner, have fewer potholes and less ice? Will our property taxes go down? Will the harbour be improved? Will the time for all the permits to build something decrease? Will more people stop using drugs and get jobs? If the answer to these questions is ‘no’ then it really doesn’t matter. Planning is important but way too much time is wasted doing it. My daughter told me of a group activity she did in high school. Business school grads did the worse because they all sat around talking about options before doing anything. Kindergarten students did better because they just got on with the task, made mistakes, corrected the mistakes and got the job done.

Reply to  Kevin
7 months ago

Your Daughter Is Correct 100 % dead on in her understanding
this Planning Dept has never looked at the Positive only WHAT IFs
better have the Developer or the expanding business do another study
while we Ponder the possible negatives factors for another 6 months

Pete M
Reply to  Sandpiper
7 months ago

This Country was known for its ability to do great things and get things done- transcontinental railway, pipe lines, trans canada micro wave, nuclear plants, even the avro arrow.
Today we struggle to build a few kilometers of highway or put sewers in the ground. And heaven forbid I mention the word pipeline for fear of starting a civil war.

7 months ago

Our whole system of governance is mired in bureaucracy. Further deferrals and more public consultation! Just get on with it! Will anything really change in regards to efficiencies and getting the budget under control? It’s interesting to note that Miriam indicated that more staff may be needed and Nicole suggested a “per diem” since some meetings will be during the work day. More expenses!