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Baker committed to committee transparency

Ken Baker wants Lloydminster’s city council to return to the committee system.

The system was previously in place in the municipal government of the Border City, before being abolished in 2011, when changes to the procedures of council were made.  On September 26, 2011, the bylaw impacting those procedures passed with unanimous consent from all members of council on the day it was introduced in the chamber, passing first, second and third readings.

Prior to that day’s meeting of council, a special committee of the whole meeting was held on September 10, 2011, during which the sole item of discussion was the proposed procedure bylaw.

The record of the meeting states that then-mayor Jeff Mulligan spoke to those present about the history of the City’s procedure bylaw, along with an overview of what the new procedure was aimed at achieving. He also made a note that the municipal government is required to have all meetings of council open to the public, and that any information discussed or presented in those meetings becomes a matter of public record.

Since the changes, the committee system has not been in place in the municipal government. According to Baker, that’s led to council members not being as well-versed in their topics of discussion, compared to years previous.

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“Every council member hasn’t got time to do all the research for everything that’s going on in the city,” said Baker, reached after the all-candidates forum on Tuesday evening.

“They have jobs, they have to make a living, and they do this as a service to the community, so the committee system gave us the ability to provide each member with an agenda for the committee meeting.”

Baker has made numerous public statements in favour of the return of the system.

“You went through the issues on the agenda, people could add things to the agenda ahead of time, you would go back, do the research with the help of administration, bring forth recommendations, what you found out,” said Baker.

“Everybody got the minutes, and then when it went to council there was recommendations recommended to council, rather than administration doing all the recommendations.”

As for the transparency of the committee system, Baker said he was committed to having the meetings open to the public.

“Absolutely, unless it’s an in-camera, and there is a reason for in-camera meetings, and we don’t have many,” said Baker.

“It’s because of issues, salaries, personnel issues, land sales.”

Under the Lloydminster Charter, all meetings of council, and all meetings of council committees, must be held in public.

If the meetings are regularly scheduled, then notice of meeting times does not have to be given. If the times are changed, notice must be given 24 hours in advance to both committee members and the public.

If the meetings are not regularly scheduled, then notice must be given 24 hours in advance to members, and to the public. Meetings can be held with less than 24 hours’ notice to the members and no notice to the public, but only if all members agree to do so in writing before the beginning of the meeting.

However, there are reasons as to why meetings could be held in private.

“If a majority of the members present is of the opinion that it is in the public interest to hold a committee meeting of the whole or part of Council on any subject in private, Council may, by resolution, exclude any person or persons from the meeting,” the charter reads.

“A City planning commission, subdivision authority, development authority or subdivision and development appeal board established under Part 17 of the Municipal Government Act (Alberta) or under The Planning and Development Act, 2007 (Saskatchewan) may deliberate and make its decisions in meetings closed to the public.”

If the meeting is closed to the public, no bylaw or resolutions can be passed except a resolution to revert to a public meeting, thought that rule does not apply when council or a body appointed by council is acting as the approving authority for subdivisions

Baker also said he didn’t know if residents had issues with the committee system during his years as mayor.

“We didn’t have FOIPing (freedom of information requests) going on in the years I was there, and people seemed happy,” said Baker.

“I had never seen anybody that was upset with anything that we were doing, and we certainly didn’t receive much flak back then.”

The vote to determine the next mayor and council of the Border City takes place on October 26.

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