Councillor calls for full-time council in Guelph after 10-hour meeting

Ward 6 Coun. Mark MacKinnon thinks it's time for Guelph to have a full-time city council. Matt Carty / Global News

After yet another marathon meeting at Guelph City Hall on Monday, one councillor thinks it’s time to consider a full-time council.

Ward 6 Coun. Mark MacKinnon made the comments on Tuesday morning, a day after sitting in on a committee of the whole meeting that started at 2 p.m. and adjourned at midnight.

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“The business of the city of Guelph has increased so much because of our size, because of the scope of what we do, that we need to look at the best way to engage with the policies as well as with the residents,” he said in an interview.

During the 2016 budget deliberations, MacKinnon moved a motion to fund a $190,000 study that would examine what type of council would best serve the city and whether councillors should be full-time instead of part-time, but it was voted down.

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He still thinks the review should be pursued.

“The system that we have right now is just not suitable for the type of structure that I think that our citizens want and expect,” MacKinnon said, while adding that the committee of the whole model adopted in 2016 is as efficient as it can be under the current governance model.

But he added that the long meetings are not only affecting councillors, but residents who choose to delegate.

“When you have two or three or four [or] 10 items on an agenda because of the nature of what we need to cover and a delegate happens to be on one of those items, it may be hours before we get to one of them,” MacKinnon explained.

He said one delegate waited until after 10 p.m. on Monday to speak for only five minutes.

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MacKinnon suggested more meetings per week may shorten things up, but it would most likely mean a move to full-time council.

“The joke on council is that it’s a full-time job with part-time pay,” he said. “It’s not just the meetings, it’s also all the reading, the research and engaging with residents as well.”

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In an ironic twist, councillors were supposed to discuss a review of the committee of the whole structure at Monday’s meeting, but it was deferred after councillors voted against continuing past midnight.

MacKinnon said the report shows that the committee of the whole structure is working.

“Council meetings are significantly shorter than they used to be because the committee of the whole is where the real debate and discussions are happening,” he said. “There’s just too much actual operational information and too much duties that council has to cover it in a timely manner.”

MacKinnon said if he is re-elected in October, he will again pursue the study that was voted down in 2016.