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John Henderson chaired the special Committee of the Whole (C.O.W.) governance meeting and all councillors participated in the somewhat productive discussion.  The terms of reference were to look at four Governance models but right at the start, John Henderson asked if there was a consensus to confine discussion to less than four.  And there was. The only two that were therefore discussed were the existing “Coordinator System” and the Committee of the Whole system used by the Town of Blue Mountain.

The other two were the “Standing Committee Full Council” used by Thunder Bay and the “Hybrid system” used by Northumberland County.  For more details on them, see the documents provided to Councillors before the meeting. (Download from Cobourg Internet: Report from CAO on 4 options; Summary Table by John Henderson.)

Below is John Henderson’s table for the two models that were considered.

  Coordinators System Town of Cobourg Committee of the Whole Town of Blue Mountain
Governance System Topic Specialist No Specialist
Council Structure Mayor and Deputy Mayor and 5
Total 7
Mayor and 6 Councillors
Total 7
Schedule Week #1 C.o.W. 7pm
Week#2 Council 7pm
Week#3 Off
Week #1 C.o.W. 1 p.m.
Week#2 Off
Week #3 Council 5p.m. Repeat
Number of Meetings Inaugural Meeting 1
C.o.W.  17  Council 17
Total 35
CAO/Directors and Council at all sessions
C.o.W.  16 Council 16
Total 32
CAO/Directors only at C.o.W. and
Council all sessions
Composition Coordinators of Economic
Public Works; Protection,
General Government,
Parks/Recreation and Community
Mayor: Ex-Officio
Finance &Administration
Infrastructure & Recreation
Building & Planning
Mayor: Ex-Officio
Chaired By C.o.W.  and Council: Mayor
Open, Public Meetings by
3 Separate Chairs
Council: Mayor
Communications Coordinators: reports and motions
Staff: Clarification C.o.W.:  Cogeco
Council: Coordinator’s Reports
Staff: Action Reports first followed
by Information Reports
Council: Clarification &
Time Sensitive: Directly to Council
Other Committee of Adjustment Committee of Adjustment
Timelines Status Quo
Present Governance Model remains 2018
One of the three new Governance Models is selected; General Government: D.M.
Henderson and two other
Councillors work to review the Advisory Committee System and bring back to Public for comment
Gen. Government review
New System in place for Fall 2015 and aligned with Budget proceedings

The discussion methodology attempted to use a SWOT analysis but became mostly a chance to list strengths and weaknesses with plenty of opportunity to debate along the way. It was clear to an observer (although councillors may not agree) what each councillor thought.  Debra McCarthy and Theresa Rickerby wanted change – Theresa even said that the recent election vote said that change was wanted.  Forrest said: “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it”; Brian Darling and Gill Brocanier asked questions that indicated that they thought the current system was OK although it maybe needed some tweaks. Larry Sherwin was concerned about hours although there was never any intent to adopt the schedule used by Blue Mountain.  Chair John Henderson was fairly neutral although he seemed to want change.

A lot of the discussion was about getting clarity on how exactly did the C.O.W. Blue Mountain model work.  In the end, it was agreed that if either model was adopted (existing or new), there would be changes made to the models - probably quite a lot with the C.O.W. Blue Mountain model. 

The advantages and disadvantages were not much different than described earlier here (Cobourg Council Governance).  The big difference between the two models is that the current system requires councillors to represent and, to some extent, be an expert in their specialty or coordinator role.   The proposed COW method would mean that all councillors would be involved in all areas. 

One discussion seemed to make the same aspect both an advantage and a disadvantage – depending on your viewpoint.  Gil said that Coordinators could take on a leadership role whereas Theresa was uncomfortable with direction coming from a single councillor instead of the whole council.  She also seemed uncomfortable with the unequal spread of Councillor workload by the current system.

It was mentioned several times that perhaps we have too many Advisory Committees.  It was also said that a decision should not be made too quickly and that there should be public consultation along the way.

In the end, Debra McCarthy moved a motion that would define next steps:

A working group to be formed consisting of the Mayor, Deputy Mayor, CAO, Town Clerk and one other councillor (subsequently agreed to be Debra) who would, with public consultation, prepare a report which compared the current coordinators model and a modified Blue Mountain C.O.W. model.  The report would include a review of committees with possible consolidation.  The report to be submitted to Council by October, 2015. (May not be 100% word for word).

The motion was passed with Larry the only negative vote. This motion will need to be ratified at the Council meeting on June 8.

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