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Council votes down motion to align meeting calendar with school holidays

One councillor calls motion a 'solution looking for a problem,' two in favour suggest it would help enable parents to be part of council
2021-01-07 Calendar JO-001

A motion by one councillor intended to get more parents running for council seats was defeated this week, with some councillors suggesting it may exclude other groups.

During Monday’s regular meeting of council, councillors voted against a motion to amend the procedural bylaw to not allow meetings on dates that coincide with school holidays such as the December holiday break, or March break.

According to the wording of the motion, Coun. Yvonne Hamlin put it forward in order to encourage a broader pool of candidates for council and committees, as it would make it easier for candidates with school-aged children to put their names forward for those positions. When clarifying the motion to the clerk, Hamlin said it would exclude the summer break.

Coun. Mariane McLeod raised concern that the new procedural bylaw had just been passed in December.

“I'm not quite sure how it is that this got missed in that lengthy process. It seems odd to me that that happened,” said McLeod.

McLeod noted that she had compared the local school board schedules over the past three years to the council meeting schedule to determine how often conflicts had been an issue in that time. Of the 55 school holidays over the past three years (which excluded winter breaks), she said eight council and committee meetings had occurred. Of those eight, five were meetings that councillors would be expected to attend.

Of those, she said two were missed by councillors.

“So, I kind of feel this motion is a solution looking for a problem,” said McLeod. “I don’t know that I can support this.”

Coun. Deb Doherty said she was in support of the motion.

“I was thinking about councils to come, and anything that we are able to do to enable folks who have children, especially young children, to participate in this democratic process, it seems to me we should make that effort,” she said.

Coun. Kathy Jeffery said she was not in support of the motion.

“As one of the people on council who's still working, we are shoving so many meetings into daytime hours...if we eliminate more dates where we can have evening meetings you're going to have to start considering how to keep working people on council,” said Jeffery.

“I just think we need a bigger-picture discussion in terms of our meetings,” she added.

Coun. Steve Berman raised the issue of non-Christian holidays, which don’t necessarily conform with the school calendar. He suggested that if considered, council should also consider input on the subject from the Unity Collective.

“Do I get Jewish holidays off? ... do we shut down for Ramadan?” he asked. “It's either going to be inclusive or it's going to be up to us to miss (a meeting), so I get Coun. Hamlin's intent but I don't think this is the way to go about doing it.”

Coun. Bob Madigan agreed with Jeffery on the subject of councillors who work full-time also having conflicts.

“We're an elected official for the whole community and we should just do our best as adults to show up to the meetings,” he said. “I think this serves a false narrative and I don't think it has any benefit for the community as a whole.”

The motion to amend the procedural bylaw was defeated by a vote of 5-2, with Hamlin and Doherty in favour.

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Jessica Owen

About the Author: Jessica Owen

Jessica Owen brings 12 years of experience to her role as regional reporter for Village Media, primarily covering Collingwood, County of Simcoe and education.
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