December 9, 2014 - First Full Meeting of Council
I was very excited for the first full meeting of Council this past Tuesday. We had a lot to tackle in one night and I was very eager to get started. I knew that we would be appointing Councillors to committees and boards, dealing with store hours and a motion on a public hearing regarding HCI funds. Walking in, the Chamber was packed with people, and away we went.
Starting with appointments, I ended up getting everything I could have hoped for. I was acclaimed Chair of the Finance Committee, voted onto the Hearing Committee as well as the Nickel District Conservation Authority and the Greater Sudbury Airport Development Corporation. The Chair of Finance was important to me, and clearly to my fellow Councillors, given the nature of the job and my everyday work as a Chartered Professional Accountant. The latter two were important to me from a ward perspective given that the Airport is located in Ward 7 and our ward also hosts the headwaters of one of Greater Sudbury's 3 main drinking water systems, Lake Wahnapitae which flows into River by the same name.
Next was the issue of repealing the store hours bylaw. Some groups had made written requests to address Council, while many others showed up to the meeting hoping to speak. In order to allow this, we would have had to approve an amendment to the agenda which requires a 2/3 vote. I voted to let the 8 people speak (they would have received a maximum of 5 minutes each), but our vote fell one vote short of the 2/3 requirement and with that the heckling began and the issue was to be decided swiftly. In a very quick minute the motion was read by the Clerk and the Mayor called the question. As hard as it was, I had made up my mind on how I would vote. The decision was very very hard for me given my personal wishes to have the entire bylaw repealed. In my campaign, on this website and in my brochure, I stated my personal opinion in favour of deregulation, but I also stated that I wished the voter turnout on the questions would be 50% to make the referendum binding. I did state that if the 50% was not reached and that the results in Ward 7 were 'decisive' that I would vote the way of the ward. On countless occasions on the campaign trail I was made to define what this meant and I consistently told voters that what I viewed as decisive to change an existing by-law would be 2/3 of the votes if the 50% turnout was not reached. As it turned out, Ward 7 had one of the lowest voter turnouts at between 47% and 48%, with turnout on the referendum questions being even lower. This would mean that my votes in Council, on each question based on my campaign, would have to be Yes to Hours and No to the Civic Holiday and Boxing Day. During the campaign, I received no real distaste to the Civic Holiday, but much distaste to Boxing Day. This formulated my final voting structure which would have been Yes to Hours and the Civic Holiday and No to Boxing Day. This would have worked if the motion we voted on was split into 3 the way the referendum was. Unfortunately it was not, and I to No, because I could not vote Yes to Boxing Day. Regardless of my vote and that of Ward 2 Councillor Vagnini, the motion carried easily, the crowd erupted into boooing and name calling and the meeting went on.
I was able to bring attention to our City's issue with Handi-Transit and the fact that our current policy shuts the doors on those with cognitive impairments (Autism, Alzheimers, and others) when I said that our City has real opportunity to be one of the most inclusive and accessible communities in the Country by changing our policy. We don't need to re-invent the wheel here as successful programs are already run in vast regions like York Region and remote areas like Ontario's cottage country. This is something we can do to help our City's most vulnerable people and their families.
We then considered a few motions, passing a motion to hold a public consultation session on HCI funds, passing a motion to instruct staff to prepare options for us to fulfil one of the Mayor's promises for a 0% tax increase, and also accepting a motion to be voted on in our next meeting whereby each Councillor will sign a Charter also mentioned by the Mayor in his campaign.
All in all, it was a a very productive meeting where much was accomplished and I know all Councillors are looking forward to January!