Sunday, July 21, 2024

Overreaction to Deputy Mayor’s Notice of Motion

By Stephen Vance, Editor

With a few simple words at council’s May 11 meeting, Meaford’s Deputy Mayor, Harley Greenfield, seems to have created concern amongst councillors. Enough concern that Mayor Barb Clumpus called a closed meeting this week to discuss and seek legal advice.

What did the Deputy Mayor say to bring about a closed session meeting for council and municipal legal counsel? Greenfield made a notice of motion on May 11 indicating that he would be bringing forward a motion that would “have to do with the huge future cost of infrastructure, it will deal with no additional tax increases to cover the infrastructure expenses, it will have very much to do with a workforce adjustment which will free tax dollars for infrastructure needs.”

The words “workforce adjustment” triggered a response from the Mayor who called a special meeting on Wednesday morning to discuss “A matter related to labour relations and employee negotiations, specifically potential implications arising from a notice of motion, to be considered at an upcoming meeting, on a potential workforce adjustment.”

Given that Deputy Mayor Greenfield’s motion hasn’t even made it to the council table for discussion, a closed session meeting seeking legal advice seems a tad premature.

It seems hard to believe that the mere mention of a discussion about a potential workforce adjustment is enough to trigger a closed session meeting. The Deputy Mayor indicated that his motion is intended to grapple with the future cost of infrastructure, and where the money will come from to repair and maintain that infrastructure including assessing Meaford’s workforce. Seems like a pretty reasonable approach, and it certainly didn’t sound like language that would necessitate rounding up councillors and municipal lawyers for a mid-week closed session meeting.

It is understandable that Meaford’s council would be cautious about employee related issues, the municipality can, and has been sued by former employees, but the mere mention of a workforce adjustment shouldn’t have created such a fuss.

Council’s job is to look at all issues, all angles, and all potential consequences that could have an impact on the municipality, and every now and then that does, and should, include discussion about its workforce. The term ‘workforce adjustment’ doesn’t indicate a mass layoff, it could just as easily point to a departmental shuffle in order to move staff from where it is less needed to where they could be more effectively used.

If I were the Deputy Mayor’s fellow council members, I would have been more concerned about the “ no additional tax increases to cover the infrastructure expenses” that Greenfield said would be included in his upcoming resolution.

The Deputy Mayor has been in the municipal governing role for a very long time. With the future infrastructure needs for the Municipality of Meaford of more than $100 million, where does the Deputy Mayor think the money will come from if not in part from Meaford ratepayers?

Perhaps Greenfield could have chosen his words more carefully, or perhaps he should have had the motion fully prepared and in writing before making his notice of motion, but he wasn’t attacking staff, he wasn’t making any specific suggestion, he was simply saying to his fellow members of council, ‘hey, let’s talk about it’, and that is exactly what a member of council should be doing – exploring all options.

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