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Commission: Reform it or dump it

cartoon_jan112017There are a lot of things one can do in 128 minutes. That’s enough time to watch a decent movie. Assuming clear roads, you could get to (or at least pretty darn close to) the American border in that time. You might even be able to make it halfway through the lineup at the Costco gas station.

Alternatively, that is also enough time to hold eight years’ worth of regional transit commission meetings.

A holdover from the amalgamation of Durham’s public transit organizations, the transit commission currently meets once per year (or more should the chair, Roger Anderson, call for more) and includes all members of council.

However, the commission has turned into more of a rubber stamp committee, with some years’ meetings having nothing more on the agenda than simply confirming the minutes of the previous meeting. A review of the available minutes (two meetings are missing) for the transit commission by The Oshawa Express found that, in total, it has met for a little more than two hours since its mandate was changed in 2007.

One councillor, Amy McQuaid-England, tried to change that, saying that the commission should meet every quarter, giving councillors a better forum to bring forward transit issues from constituents. After all, some may not feel it’s worth their time to wait until that one time a year that you can bring transit-related motions forward.

However, the motion was shot down, with Anderson saying that if you cannot find a councillor on the Transit Executive Committee (TEC) – a group that meets every six weeks while council is in session – that there could be a reason as to why.

Now here’s the thing – they’re both right, but for all the wrong reasons. Yes, councillors should have the opportunity to bring transit issues and new ideas forward on a more regular basis, but there is already the TEC for that. And yes, TEC meets more regularly, but without a chance to actively bring forward new ideas, then transit may not have as many options to grow. And with a growing region, a healthy public transit system is going to be vital.

So the region is faced with two options: either it needs to change how it deals with transit matters and give all councillors a chance to bring forward new motions and complaints (such is the case with regular council items), or it needs to get rid of the transit commission all together. Either way, having a committee that meets once a year, and sometimes just for the sake of saying they had a meeting, is doing nobody any favours and, quite frankly, is a waste of time.