Planning committee to be run by another suburban councillor, and a rural one

·3 min read
West-end suburban Coun. Glen Gower and rural Coun. Scott Moffatt were named co-chairs of the planning committee on July 21, 2021. (CBC News - image credit)
West-end suburban Coun. Glen Gower and rural Coun. Scott Moffatt were named co-chairs of the planning committee on July 21, 2021. (CBC News - image credit)

A month after Coun. Jan Harder stepped down as planning committee chair in the face of a damning integrity commissioner's report, council voted to replace her with two co-chairs for the first time ever.

Fourteen members of council voted Wednesday to make Coun. Glen Gower, who is serving his first term representing Stittsville, and Coun. Scott Moffatt, who represents the rural ward of Rideau-Goulbourn, new joint chairs of the committee.

Kitchissippi ward Coun. Jeff Leiper received nine votes. All three councillors already had seats on planning committee.

The committee has a major task this fall of stick-handling the new official plan — a contentious 25-year blueprint for how the city will grow — that includes controversial intensification for inner-city neighbourhoods.

That will now be headed by a councillor who represents the west-end suburbs, and another from a rural area. Planning hasn't been led by a councillor from inside the Greenbelt since former Alta Vista Coun. Peter Hume in 2014.

Moffatt will also keep his position as chair of the environment committee, which is preparing a new master plan for solid waste. He wants to see that through, and said before the vote he would have refused to give up the environment leadership role to co-chair planning.

"The solid waste master plan is a significant file, just like the official plan is. To have continuity on those files is incredibly important for the future of this city," Moffatt said before the vote.

"I don't think it's ideal to switch chairs of committees in middle of important planning files."

Planning committee will add an urban councillor as a new member in Shawn Menard, who represents Capital ward. He has been vying for a spot on the committee since he was elected in 2018.

Only Harder dissented from Menard's appointment.

Last-minute co-chair plan questioned

Coun. Allan Hubley, supported by Mayor Jim Watson, brought the motion to replace Harder with co-chairs at the last moment at city council on Wednesday.

The schedule, which includes two meetings per month, and an "extraordinarily high" workload were reasons he cited for the motion to have two people share the load.

Several council members objected. Some suggested they would have put their names forward if two jobs were up for grabs — the first time this has ever occurred.

"I think it would have been different if we'd known ahead of time," said Bay ward Coun. Theresa Kavanagh.

Somerset ward Coun. Catherine McKenney was surprised by the last-minute move and pointed out the lack of gender equality in the leadership of city committees.

Every chair of a standing committee — and all but one vice-chair — is male.

"We are not an equitable council in terms of who we have at the table," said McKenney.

As far as geographic representation, no urban councillors are members of the influential finance and economic development committee, while only one chairs a committee. Alta Vista ward Coun. Jean Cloutier chairs the audit committee.

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