Iqaluit city councillor absences prompt council discussion

“We have to start talking about what is an acceptable reason and what isn’t an acceptable reason”

After continued absences by councillors, Mayor Kenny Bell asked for a motion to revisit the bylaw governing council indemnities. (File photo)

By Dustin Patar

Continued absences by some Iqaluit city councillors prompted Mayor Kenny Bell to address the issue during Tuesday night’s council meeting.

The sitting was the first time that all eight councillors and the mayor have been in attendance at a regularly scheduled meeting since being elected in October.

“I think there’s a time where we have to sit down, we have to start talking about what is an acceptable reason [and] what isn’t [an] acceptable reason, and that’s kind of embarrassing that we even have to have that conversation,” said Bell.

Councillors then broke into a discussion about acceptable reasons for absences.

“I’ve been on this council for 10 years now, and there’s not very many times where people have missed a meeting for what would be deemed an unacceptable reason,” said Coun. Romeyn Stevenson, who also acknowledged that councillors have day jobs and that sometimes those obligations will overlap with council meetings.

Stevenson and Coun. Kyle Sheppard said that newer councillors shouldn’t be concerned that they’re being accused of anything, that the discussion is more of a reminder that if they plan to miss a session to let the council know, as Coun. Simon Nattaq did earlier in the meeting.

Sheppard also took the opportunity to address Coun. Sheila Flaherty, who has missed the majority of meetings: “I don’t think anybody faults you for the travel you had pre-arranged long before the election even happened.”

“I hope you can stop being concerned with that.”

Bell agreed and provided further clarity on what absences aren’t excusable. “There has been a couple, where one was, ‘I’m cutting up meat and I don’t want to smell up the place,’ ‘I don’t have a ride to council,’ ‘I don’t want to meet with them’—those things are not acceptable.”

“Years ago, when I was on council, we got paid a flat fee per month plus whatever meetings you went to.”

In December 2018, when councillors approved a new indemnity bylaw, that changed.

That gave councillors a pay raise, and the attendance portion included in the previous bylaws was removed. Bell wants to see that changed.

“If you don’t come to your two meetings a month, then you still get some sort of flat fee because you are a councillor 24 hours a day, every day of the week,” he said.

“But you shouldn’t be getting paid the full amount if the councillor isn’t coming to work for an unspecified reason, or for a reason that’s not acceptable to council.”

Sheppard then proposed a motion to instruct the city administration to prepare some options for council to review related to compensation and attendance.

Deputy Mayor Janet Brewster seconded the motion but later commented that the discussion, like many others she’s heard since being elected, falls into a larger issue—a lack of understanding of what constitutes good governance.

“I think we spend a lot of time being kind of redirected from the issues that we’re discussing,” said Brewster.

As a solution, she suggested that the council could consult an expert on governance who could help councillors make more timely and informed decisions.

Bell agreed and said it’s something they may put on the agenda for the next council meeting on Feb. 25.

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(11) Comments:

  1. Posted by pissed off on

    When you run for any office or you are appointed and accept the duty, you should seriously try to figure out whether you feel up to the task.
    Both in term of knowledge of the job at hand and the requirements .

    That means showing up prepared having read the documents provided ahead of time, consulting if you don`t feel you understand properly the topic and arrive prepared.

    It`s is a civic duty that has to be taken very seriously. If you don`t you will do a grave disservice to your community.

    It is not and should not ever be about money and the possibility of free travel and such things. It is about serving your community


  2. Posted by doug on

    a very common issue in Nunavut .. employees failing to show up to work!.. No Comment!

  3. Posted by Charlotte Borg on

    I agree with Janet and support her proposal. Educated governance will facilitate good governance.

  4. Posted by Sad on

    Sad the mayor doesn’t understand Inuit values. Cutting meat for family and elders is the Inuit way and is a priority. Shame on him. He wants to be mayor here and wants all the power. Same as usual

    • Posted by Paul Murphy. on

      Then I suggest dont fun for council or dont expect an honorarium if you are a no show for any reason. Honoraria is meant for your time used to attend. Just like any other job
      No show? No pay.

    • Posted by The Old Trapper on

      I disagree and see it as a sad excuse, if indeed it was an excuse used by one of the councillors.
      Was there no one else who could cut up the meat? Could the meat have been cut up earlier? Could the meat have been cut up later?
      The fact is that the councillor stood for election, and was indeed elected. They have an obligation to the taxpayers to show up for work, for which they are well compensated.

    • Posted by iRoll on

      When you use “Inuit Values” as an excuse for not attending to your commitments, you really debase IQ. If any thing is sad it’s this kind of BS.

  5. Posted by Darek on

    They have council meeting every 2 weeks right? Stop direct deposit of payments to councillors. Pay them by cheque, and have them available for pick up at the END of each council meeting.

    See how many fail to show up then.

  6. Posted by Qikiqtaalumiu on

    wow this has been on the council meeting for ages now and no clarity yet, as for the council they are 24/7 and I believe just keep it the way it is. the only time this should be brought up is if they missed three times or more since elected to office. this is serious stuff not attending the meetings but doing by the book matters.And for the deputy mayor always talking about good governance and yet has not shown support to the council and the public.i everyone was ready to be in public office again I believe things should be in place such as motions and more to keep busy.i support everyone read the books and have something solid in place before addressing the public.

  7. Posted by Allan on

    post the attendance records. This the public can then be aware of who not to vote for again. It is fully understood the counsellors are expected to be in attendance. No show no pay. Simple fix and if the person doesn’t like it resign

  8. Posted by The Native on

    Good job Kenny. Hold people responsible for there action and maybe Iqaluit will hold them responsible to and not elect them during the next election

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