Iqaluit mayor says he's frustrated with city councillors not showing up to meetings

Iqaluit Mayor Kenny Bell wants city councillors to be more accountable for their attendance at city meetings. 

At a city council meeting Tuesday, Bell raised the issue asking councillors to vote on changing a bylaw on how they are paid for attending meetings. 

Bell says councillors have given reasons he believes are inexcusable for missing meetings. Those reasons include: cutting up meat and not wanting to stink up the chamber; not having a ride to a meeting; and not wanting to speak with a presenting delegate. 

Bell would not name which councillors made the excuses. 

"It's kind of embarrassing that we even have to have that conversation," said Bell at the meeting. 

Bell said the rules should be changed so members are not paid for meetings missed without a reasonable excuse. 

He says being sick, having prior work obligations, or travel are reasonable excuses to miss meetings. He said it's not clear right now how they will evaluate what are acceptable and unacceptable reasons. 

Governance training may be in the works

"We are elected officials and we should be at meetings," Bell said in an interview with CBC. 

Councillor Kyle Sheppard moved a motion at the meeting for administration to bring forward options about changing the rules. Deputy Mayor Janet Brewster seconded the motion. 

Tuesday's meeting was the first regular scheduled city council meeting that all councillors were in attendance for. 

Bell called in to the Jan. 28., council meeting from Tromso, Norway, where he was attending an Arctic Mayors Forum, in order to make quorum. Bell said a councillor didn't come to the meeting because the councillor didn't have a ride. 

"I don't want to sound negative ... I just don't think we have the basic foundations of governance down to make sure that we continue in a strong fashion," said Bell.

"Any weak member screws that up." 

Travis Burke/CBC

Brewster has suggested councillors should receive governance training in order to run more efficiently. 

"Boards and committees everywhere struggle with process," said Brewster. 

"Especially when we consider Inuit Qaujimajatuqangit and our societal values that direct us into a more consensus-based way of meeting and being community members. It is very different from our values." 

Brewster says training would help members with things like understanding councils process, making sure councillors are ready when they come to meetings, and keeping discussion focused on the agenda. 

Bell agreed he could also benefit from the training and will be looking into a request for proposals to bring to a future meeting. 

For now, Bell said he has asked administration to post council attendance online at the city's website for the public to view who's going.