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What is Committee of the Whole?

I am often asked about Council’s new pilot project for standing committee structure, Committee of the Whole (COTW). It replaces most standing committees (with the exception of Audit & Accountability). As outlined on the City’s website,

“the objectives are to increase council participation in committee level work while enhancing the timeliness of resolution and transparency of issues.  This pilot will run from November 2017 to June 2018, followed by an evaluation period over the summer to ascertain if objectives have been met.” 

Here are some key points on the new Committee of the Whole:

When is COTW?

As part of a pilot project undertaken by Council, committees will meet in COTW every second Wednesday morning from 9 am to 12 pm in the Council Chambers. Provisions for Livestreaming the meetings are underway.

What happens at COTW?

Committee of the Whole is when Council sits as a single committee. A lot of discussion occurs at the committee level before being considered in a council meeting. It helps facilitate discussions and increases transparency around the decision-making process at City Hall. No final decisions are made in COTW, but recommendations can be brought forward to a future regular meeting of Council.

This week on November 29 we discussed a couple of things. 1) The 2017 City of St. John’s Municipal Election Report prepared by staff, and 2) The 2017 Housing Catalyst Funds Awards.

COTW also provides an opportunity for delegations, where more key stakeholders in Council decisions can take part in the discussion. Representatives from the community such as community groups, organizations, or proponents of ongoing projects can present to Committee Members on a topic related to an agenda item.

Business Arising is where reports, information notes, or other matters requested at a previous meeting are debated and appropriate recommendations are considered.

New Business is where the Committee Leads report on their theme area of the Committee of the Whole.

What are Committee Leads?

Each Council member has a portfolio of positions they hold while on council within different interest areas. Some councillors have a Committee Lead topic from the following theme areas (mine is Planning & Development right now):

Finance and Administration
Public Works & Sustainability
Community Services & Events
Economic Development, Tourism & Culture
Governance & Strategic Priorities
Planning & Development

What was the previous model, prior to COTW?

The previous model was to have standing committees meet separately. In theory, every Council Member was welcome to attend every committee, but in practice this was not really the case. This pilot project intends to increase council participation in every committee area. Because COTW is now on a regular, predictable schedule with all topics presented in one setting, it should be easier for media and members of the public to join council members and staff at the committee level. I hope to see you at the next meeting, December 13 at 9 am in the Council Chambers at City Hall!

For more information about why Council is doing this pilot project, you can read the Standing Committee Review that was completed in 2017 here:

Next steps? 

Once the Pilot Project is concluded in 2018, there will be a report on the efficacy of COTW and a path forward will be determined at that time.

Committee of the Whole is new and unfamiliar. I hope these points clarify some questions! Please get in touch with your thoughts!

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