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Standing committee structure returning

By Dave Flaherty/The Oshawa Express

Beginning this December, regional council will return to its old method of business.

Councillors have supported a move back to the standing committee structure, which was utilized before September 2016.

At that time, council moved to a committee of the whole process as a pilot project.

Council, sitting as committee of the whole, had recommended by a slim 12-11 vote, to continue with the current practice at the April 4 meeting.

However, several councillors were absent from that vote, and the tide turned at the April 11 meeting.

Nester Pidwerbecki and Doug Sanders were the only Oshawa councillors in favour of continuing with the current direction.

Oshawa Councillor Amy McQuaid-England was a vocal supporter of the standing committee structure.

“I’ve never seen so much arguing as since we moved to committee of the whole,” she stated.

The length of meetings was an issue for now resigned Oshawa Councillor Bob Chapman.

“We spent 10 hours here last Wednesday,” Chapman noted, adding that councillors can only digest so much information in one day.

“Time seems to be an issue.”

For Clarington Councillor Joe Neal, the committee of the whole structure had impeded proper discussion on important issues, namely in the areas of health and social services.

“The health and social services committee used to deal with a lot of important issues in a much more informed and collegial way,” Neal observed.

Under the old system, Neal stated serious discussions had occurred about the topic of teen suicide, but that momentum had all but ceased with committee of the whole.

He pointed out department heads and staff had told him they preferred standing committees as well.

“I haven’t heard anybody say they like the current system better.”

A number of councillors argued they were able to have “areas of expertise” with standing committees as opposed to the all-encompassing nature of committee of the whole.

“When everybody is responsible for everything, nobody is responsible for anything,” Ajax Mayor Steve Parish concluded.

The current council will continue under the committee of the whole structure.

Standing committee meetings will return for the 2018-22 term.