Nunatsiaq News
NEWS: Iqaluit January 19, 2017 - 7:00 am

Making it work: Iqaluit council tries to fix impotent committees

City councillors decry lack of admin support, terms of reference and unfulfilled mandates

Iqaluit Coun. Kuthula Matshazi tells his fellow councillors at a special meeting Jan. 18 said committees of council need to have better guidance on what they are supposed to achieve. (PHOTO BY STEVE DUCHARME)
Iqaluit Coun. Kuthula Matshazi tells his fellow councillors at a special meeting Jan. 18 said committees of council need to have better guidance on what they are supposed to achieve. (PHOTO BY STEVE DUCHARME)

The City of Iqaluit’s standing committee structure—led by councillors and tasked with important policy functions—may soon be headed for reform following reports that some of those groups are uncertain of their mandate and struggle with communication, attendance and staffing.

Iqaluit councillors met during a specially scheduled meeting in city chambers, Jan. 17, to discuss why their committees, in some cases, might not be fulfilling the roles, or “terms of reference,” laid out for them.

The standing committees are supposed to act as a ground-floor structure for policy drafting, gauging public feedback and consultation with stakeholders.

“I had to ask sometimes more than twice to get [terms of reference] and even after the third meeting there were people on some of the committees I was chairing, they still didn’t have the terms of reference,” Coun. Jason Rochon told council.

Rochon previously chaired two committees and sat on two others prior to a shakeup last week that saw Coun. Joanasie Akumalik assume five chair roles following the resignation of former-councillor Megan Pizzo-Lyall.

Economic development, recreation, public safety, disabilities, Nitsiik and taxi boards were among the committees discussed.

Each committee supplied answers to a standardized set of questions from the city reviewing its progress.

Members of the city’s public safety committee largely admitted to abandoning its mandate, firing off a series of “no,” ‘rarely,” and “sometimes,” on a list of eight things the committee is designated to do.

The committee’s report went on to explain it was unable to fulfill its role due to the absence of a “Community Safety Plan” developed and implemented by the group, no appointed safety coordinator, and lack of follow-up.

Nevertheless, the committee has been meeting since 2012, according to its review.

Coun. Terry Dobbin said many who had worked on the public safety board over the years have resigned out of frustration.

“[They had] great ideas that died on the floor. Once they are recommended to council they go no further than that,” he said, adding it was also difficult for the committee to perform its duties with no budget.

Coun. Simon Nattaq added many mandates were impossible to fulfill if committees do not have assigned minute-takers, city administrative assistance or suffer from poor attendance.

The special council meeting and review was advocated for in part by Coun. Kuthula Matshazi, but he questioned the format given to the meeting after delivering his report as chair of the economic development committee and he pushed for more deliberation on overall strategy.

“Since these are our committees, we need to give them guidance in terms of what is it we expect of them,” he said, instead of simply reviewing what progress they have made.

Following a mammoth three-and-a-half hour meeting reviewing each report submitted, council resolved to streamline the two seemingly redundant taxi review and complaints committees into a single body.

The recreation committee will likely be promoted to a full committee of the whole, due to its newfound responsibilities for managing the city’s soon-to-open $40.5 million dollar aquatic centre.

And the city resolved to explore new funding opportunities for both the Nitsiik and economic developments committees at the federal and territorial level.
“Almost every committee has some work to do with respect to making adjustments with the view for improvements,” Mayor Madeleine Redfern told Nunatsiaq News after the meeting.

“The purpose of the review is to recognize that unless you do the review you’re not going to look at the efficiencies or the purpose of the committees.”

Council will likely make its first moves to legislate the proposed amendments during the next city council meeting, Jan. 24.

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