Councillors are inching closer to a final decision on the 2019 calendar and despite Tuesday’s vote at the corporate services committee, a push for morning council meetings is still clinging to life.
At the midday meeting, members voted 3-2 to endorse a calendar similar to what’s already in place. Coun. Jesse Helmer and Coun. Michael Van Holst, who first brought forward the idea in the spring, were the two to vote in favour of a so-called daytime calendar.
“Council meetings, for one thing, we always have the dinner break. And I think that is a real impact,” said Helmer.
“I would rather have started the meeting at 9:30 a.m. in the morning, and work our way through and then maybe we finish by lunch, rather than having a dinner break that constantly is interrupting the meeting.”
Helmer also noted that numerous other municipalities go by a daytime schedule and listed Calgary, Montreal, Mississauga, Toronto, Vancouver, Winnipeg, Brampton, Edmonton, Ottawa, and Halifax as municipalities that schedule full council meetings to start sometime between 8:30 a.m. and 10 a.m.
Van Holst added that the daytime calendar schedule would also push public participation meetings to 6:30 p.m., which would be more convenient for many Londoners.
“All our meetings are daytime, for all intents and purposes, for people who work 9-5 or until 6 p.m.”
Coun. Jared Zaifman referenced previous public outreach included in the staff report which suggests the public is divided on the issue and also noted concerns about making changes during an election campaign.
“Frankly, I don’t know if we’re ever going to get to a situation where we’re going to find balance that works well for everybody,” he explained.
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Deputy Mayor Paul Hubert voiced similar concerns about the timing, but from the perspective of voters rather than candidates.
“They’re all focused on the bazillion signs that are on street corners and on lawns, and discussions around issues. They’re not focused on this issue,” he stated.
“Quite frankly, I haven’t had a single email on this issue over the past several weeks.”
While the committee endorsed a calendar with meeting times similar to what’s already in place, full council makes the final decision.
If full council does not approve the calendar, it would be considered a “decided matter of council,” meaning it could not be voted on again and city staff would have to present a new calendar.