Council criticized for changes to committees and boards

ARICHAT: The new warden defended council’s decision to make changes to the municipality’s boards and committee.

During the 15-minute question period near the conclusion of the regular monthly meeting of Richmond Municipal Council on November 26 in Arichat, three Richmond County residents said they were disappointed with the re-organization of the municipal bodies and that council was heading in the wrong direction.

Two of those residents, Germaine MacDonald and Robbie Fougere, were members of the audit and policy committees respectively. During the meeting, council unanimously approved the changes, effective January 2019, which included removing three at-large members from the policy committee and one at-large member from the audit committee.

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Richmond Warden Jason MacLean reasoned that the restructuring identifies important committees and boards, while consolidating others to “create efficiencies.”

“County councillors are busy and time-management is a key component of ensuring their time is best spent on a balanced compliment of committee and board activities,” MacLean told council.

The warden said the changes mandate that committee and board chairs, as well as council representatives, will be required to report to committee-of-the-whole meetings throughout the year. He said the committee-of-the-whole “is essentially a governance meeting” to discuss committee and board matters and these changes give members time to digest information.

“Through effective reporting, council will be regularly updated on activities and initiatives while ensuring public awareness is maintained regarding municipal and community-related entities,” the warden said.

Deputy Warden Brian Marchand said there are times grant requests come before council when members do not have all the information, and are not given sufficient time to process the applications.

“I feel what we should do, especially in light of grants, is give people some time,” Marchand said.

After the meeting, the warden said he understands there will be resistance to the changes, but added he does not believe council is taking a step back on accountability.

“Committees sometimes that are too big, sometimes just become stagnant,” the warden said. “We really are trying to have committee-of-the-whole play more of an important role with things coming to council, giving councillors time to think about any of the important matters, and then moving on from that.”