Committee of the whole meetings will become a thing of the past in Nanaimo.
Nanaimo city councillors earlier this month voted in favour of launching a new committee called the governance and priorities committee (GPC), which will eventually replace the city’s existing COW meetings. Councillors also adopted the new committee’s terms of reference.
Details are still being ironed out about how the new committee will work and when the first meeting will be held, according to Coun. Erin Hemmens, who spearheaded the idea, however, GPC meetings would be less formal, include all members of council and agendas would only have one or two topics on them.
The GPC will be able to make recommendations to council regarding reports, updates or presentations received during meetings, according to the committee’s terms of reference.
Meetings would be scheduled on a regular bi-weekly basis and a working group that includes the mayor, acting mayor, chief administrative officer and the city clerk would determine the topics for each meeting.
Hemmens told the News Bulletin that GPC meetings will be open to the public and are meant to be a forum for robust conversations.
“It’s really about creating a space for council to have in-depth conversations and discussions related to issues that really matter to the community and I don’t think that those forums yet exist and I think the GPC meeting is really a move to creating that forum,” she said.
Following the establishment of the GPC, other committees will also be formed according to Hemmens. She said residents will be able to bring concerns about a specific issue to the committee that deals with those issues, adding that right now a lot of concerns are coming to council when they should be dealt with at a committee level.
“Everything is going to council but really the committees are the proper outlet for those conversations,” she said. “The GPC is the first kind of step in establishing that structure.”
The previous city council eliminated 12 committees, merged other committees together and created six new ones in 2016 as part of restructuring effort.
Hemmens said one major difference between COW meetings and GPC meetings is that “content experts” will present at GPC meetings. She said members of the public with knowledge on specific topics on the agenda will also be encouraged to present and share their ideas.
“The public is such an important piece of how we process information and make our decisions and we are really there to represent them,” Hemmens said.
While the public can present to council as a delegation during COW meetings, Hemmens said they are “never really there with us at the table” and believes this new structure will provide an opportunity for members of the public to enter “into the conversation” with councillors.
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