LIVE BLOG: Committee of the Whole for April 3, 2017

Chickens, taxes and voting are all on the agenda for this month’s committee meeting. You can click here for the amended agenda from City Hall, and you can click here to read Politico’s preview of today’s meeting. For the complete blow-by-blow of today’s committee meeting, you can follow me on Twitter, or follow along below via Storify.

Committee-of-the-Whole Meeting – April 3, 2017

Live blog from the meeting starting at 2 pm

  1. Outstanding Resolutions of Public Services put on the floor, Chair Hofland offers kudos to staff with only 4 left.
  2. Next up the Festivals and Events Ontario Municipality of the Year Award. Goes to city that’s best provided an atmosphere for events.
  3. Looks like more awards for Guelph. The one for Municipality of the Year award from @feontario.

    Looks like more awards for Guelph. The one for Municipality of the Year award from @feontario.
  4. Congrats to our staff team for their Municipality of the Year Award from Festival and Events Ontario @cityofguelph https://t.co/1xl1Q1Lih3

    Congrats to our staff team for their Municipality of the Year Award from Festival and Events Ontario @cityofguelph pic.twitter.com/1xl1Q1Lih3
  5. Next, 2018 Municipal Election Methods for Voting. Basically, more internet voting and paperless ballots.
  6. The ministry wanted councils to decide on ranked balloting, hence why we’re talking about his so early, but council tabled ranked in Sept.
  7. The vote tabulators #Guelph used in 2014 are the same machines Ontario will be using in 2018, says City Clerk O’Brien
  8. Internet voting: “opens up a new world” to people with disabilities says O’Brien.
  9. Paperless ballots: tech upgrade could facilitate ranked balloting later on, Council told staff to keep an eye on it in ’18
  10. There will be four public delegations on this incl. the usual suspects: Susan Watson, Jason Blokhuis and High Whiteley.
  11. Cllr Billings asks how can paperless be cost effective, but how can we know the cost?
  12. O’Brien: To implement, have to verify its cost effective. One of the benchmarks they will be look at for implementation beyond adv polls.
  13. Hofland asks about risk of not doing the expansion.
    O’Brien: No risk to this upcoming elxn, from admin standpoint ’14 was successful
  14. Internet/paperless purely puts us in better place for ranked. Right now 4 municipalities looking at it for 2018. Have to decide by May 1.
  15. Cllr Allt says the May 1 date gives him concern b/c its a premature deadline (which was set by the province anyway)
  16. Allt asks if the only way to have ranked balloting was to go electronic. O’Brien says no, it would be more expedient though in counting.
  17. Polls close on election day, results will come in at 10, 11 pm at the latest (with electronic polling).
  18. In Minneapolis, the first ranked balloting elxn took 7 days to get the results w/o electronic ballots.
  19. There were no known issues from internet voting in 2014. The admin, and security all went well.
  20. Cllr Bell presses about in person follow up after the election to confirm all ballots cast online.
  21. There was a tool called VoterImpact.ca, that added voters to the list in 2014. No idea was required.
  22. 97 municipalities used internet voting in 2014, #’s will go up in 2018.
  23. Cllr MacKinnon: If someone is on Impact, does that automatically add them to voter list, or do they have to undergo 2-step check too?
  24. The two step process is that someone has to first get on the voter’s list, and then they have to register for internet voting.
  25. Cllr Piper asks about whether staff has looked at phone voting versus internet voting.
  26. O’Brien says the cost of internet is 75 cents per voter, looked at phone in 2014 but hasn’t revisited since internet so successful.
  27. Next up is delegations for voting, 1st delegate: Susan Watson.
  28. Watson says internet voting should be suspended indefinitely due to numerous hacks and electronic crime in recent years.
  29. Watson focuses on voters list, no enumeration and no voter scrutiny on the accuracy of the list. “Outrageously inaccurate,” she says.
  30. Watson says she’s gotten Voter ID card for someone that hasn’t live at her house for 14 years. All she needs is DoB and she can arrange vote
  31. Watson says she’s heard rumours about parents casting ballots for adult children that don’t live in Guelph anymore. Isn’t that a risk?
  32. “I guess we’re a far cry from John A. Macdonald dragging people into the voting booth,” said Allt.
  33. Next up Bllokhuis. Says he also shares concerns about internet voting, also worried about extended online voting.
  34. Blokhuis says extend online voting distorts campaign period. Isn’t making it available E-Day enough?
  35. Next up Richard Chaloner. He says the big problem is that we’re getting rid of the paper trail.
  36. Challenger says we have to be “absolutely sure beyond a reasonable doubt” and we’re not yet there with internet voting.
  37. “When you start worrying about democracy being cost effect, I’d ask all of you to go home,” says Chaloner.
  38. Hugh Whiteley is not here, so he’s withdrawn from delegations. $ correspondences in the package tho.
  39. Piper moves to remove the words “internet voting” from the motion. Allt seconded.
  40. Piper supports internet voting in principle, but no confident in accuracy of the Impact lists in order to run clean election.
  41. Billings asks if there any other controls that can be put in place besides birthday.
  42. O’Brien says separate mailings (voter & mail fraud), 2-step process, can detect irregularities (more than 1 vote from same IP)
  43. O’Brien says voter fraud can also happen in-person w/paper as well. Harder, but still possible.
  44. O’Brien points out that internet voting makes the elxn more accessible. Has a responsibility to make elxn as accessible as possible.
  45. Gibson says he had to “come to a comfort level” with internet voting. Saw 12K increase and that didn’t not have anything to do with online
  46. Gibson says rolling back internet voting now would seem like a suppression of the vote now.
  47. Piper says she does have confidence in voters, the tech & city, but not in the Impact list.
  48. Piper says there is an element to representing her constituents. Students were ones that told her they don’t have confidence.
  49. Bell, Wettstein, Hofland, Allt will support Piper’s amendment.
  50. Bell adds he doesn’t see evidence of fraud in last elxn, but is afraid of the opportunity to “usurp the process”.
  51. “There are a lot of people that make it their job to game the system,” says Bell
  52. Salisbury won’t support amendment, but would support the status quo.
  53. Gibson says he could “sit here and play the hysterics” but these are “outliers and not the norm” barriers to participation.
  54. Gibson says there’s still lots of room to build in safeguards, and that could use more promotion.
  55. Cllr Van Hellemond says he heard a lot of ppl say they’re glad internet voting was approved (he voted no for 2014).
  56. Van Hellemond says he has a hard time saying “no you can’t” b/c something might happen…
  57. Wettstein (speaking for seniors) finds it insulting that seniors don’t want to get out, especially since polls are often in seniors homes.
  58. Gibson says this means that council are “willing to surprise voters” and he finds that startling.
  59. Allt says no one is trying to suppress vote, allowances have always been made for people not mobile.
  60. MacKinnon asks if there’s a statutory declaration online like there is in person.
  61. O’Brien says they try and mirror physical voting experience online. There’s a warning about penalties of voter fraud.
  62. “And internet voting” has been removed from original motion. (Billings, Gibson, Downer, MacKinnon, Van Hellemond against).
  63. Correction: Impact is really MPAC = Municipal Property Assessment Corporation.
  64. MacKinnon separates votes on recommendation 1 and 2.
  65. Recommendation #1 vote: 9-3 (Billings, Gibson, Van Hellemond against)
  66. Recommendation #2 (bylaw to support paperless machines) fails 5-7. (Downer, MacKinnon, Pipe, Salisbury, Wettstein in favour.)
  67. Here we go again. The special resolutions now on tap with a delegation for Surplus Asset Sales Policies.
  68. Brian Pittana for St John Ambulance is the delegate.
  69. 12,800 people voted online in last municipal election. If vote stays same as today from committee, you won’t be able to in 2018. #Guelph
  70. Speaking on behalf of non-profit sector, Pittana hopes Mayor Guthrie’s motion goes forward as it would help out non-profits immensely.
  71. Piper aks Pittana that value of a stripped down ambulance.
    A: Varies btw communities: $5-$10K. Maybe as much as $50K. New would be <$100K
  72. 2 or 3 ambulances to be decommissioned and St John’s is asking for the donation of one. (In terms of specific request)
  73. DCAO Clack says other municipalities have programs similar, and that info on best practices will come back to council if resolution approved
  74. Clack says order of magnitude will have to be addressed too. 1 ambulance not so bad, but City generate $100Ks in selling assets.
  75. Allt says Wettstein concerns on budget are valid. Staff agrees.
  76. Allt asks about lease back programs, any best practices to support that?
  77. Clack: Not that she knows of, could look at that.
  78. Clack says they were coming with changes to the Wellbeing grant process sometime in June, don’t want to miss fall grant app period.
  79. CAO Thomson this is not the 1st time St John’s has been to council looking for surplus ambulance.
  80. A bit of challenge where multiple policies come together to cover this request (and others like it).
  81. Wettstein proposes 2 motions, one that can donate an ambulance now, and another to look at policy in relation to Wellbeing grants.
  82. Wettstein motion passes 11-0 (Van Hellemond not here for the vote)
  83. Council direct staff to arrange for transfer of one decommissioned ambulance, motion brought by Piper.
  84. Gibson asks if St John’s is the only one in city looking for free ambulance. Not in habit of picking winners.
  85. Clack says she’s not sure, but she’s also not sure if St John’s would want the ambulance the city is offering.
  86. Salisbury says Gibson raises excellent point on fairness and equity. Won’t support the motion.
  87. Allt asks if staff can supply a number in terms of money saved with St John’s providing services at River Run.
  88. Clack says its hard to quantify, it’s a value added service
  89. The 7-5 vote of #Guelph‘s Committee of the Whole to eliminate internet voting from the 2018 municipal election is … surprising.  https://twitter.com/camguthrie/status/848991423932268549 
  90. Wettstein says this motion has been out there for a couple of months w/o anyone understanding it, and not fair to St. John’s
  91. Calls ambulance a “minor concession given the circumstances.”
  92. The bylaw amendment loosen restrictions on the distance between dwellings and coops. Limits # to 10 hens.
  93. Visibility was a factor in this decision, it was meant to address odour, noise issues keep chicks away from other residences.
  94. Cllr Gordon says these rags might make coops have to be set up in middle of yard.
  95. Staff: This is for property that doesn’t meet 50 ft requirement. Otherwise, the other rules apply.
  96. In response to Bell question, input was gotten from all residents, not just the ones that want/have chickens. There was a “lively debate.”
  97. The working group added recommendations for noise, odour, and treatment of animals to better guide bylaw concerns.
  98. Billings trying to make the point that the new ratio means that the average resident tax rate is about .5% higher than approved at budget.
  99. But staff makes the point that the 2.16% increase was for this year over last, difference btw budgets not ratios.
  100. Gibson asks if the shift is putting more burden on residential property owners? Losing competitive edge?
  101. There will be competitive advantage in reduction on commercial and industrial ratio, says staff.
  102. Piper says City makes it clear what homeowners can expect to pay, council here to set ratio and calculations being offered are solid.
  103. Allt thanks Billings b/c council should be ever mindful about costs.
  104. He also says that people aren’t staying away from #Guelph because of tax ratios.
  105. Vote on Tax Policy: Passes 9-2 (Gibson and Billings against)
  106. Last item: additional training for Salisbury and Piper.
  107. Billings said she pulled it b/c this comes from mayor’s office, yes?
    O’Brien: Yes.
  108. Billings says Q has nothing to do with Piper’s request.
  109. Billings confused about how Salisbury request falls into definition of “municipal event”
  110. Gibson notes a sizeable reduction in this budget item, asks what it means for the bottom line?
  111. Downer says we might not know that till the end of the year when all the requests are in.
  112. Salisbury wasn’t able to finish the course last year, recommendation of the mayor to finish this year….
  113. …Salisbury conferred with Van Hellemond who has no intention of using his training budget (not that its Salisbury’s to claim)
  114. The training came as a suggestion from the chair of Guelph Hydro. Salisbury on the board and found it useful when talking hydro issues.
  115. Hofland says, with respect, this does not align with present policy. Also not happy to swap professional development funds.
  116. Bell asks why Salisbury is trying to receive accreditation this year instead of spaced out. Salisbury says it was Mayor’s suggestion.
  117. 2 courses: One would have used up allowance, 2nd puts him over. Salisbury says there’s no rush on his part.
  118. Wettstein says we’re having fun with policy today. Agrees with Billings that training doesn’t count as “municipal activity”
  119. Wettstein says go down path to degrees being covered by council. Needs policy question answered.
  120. “Given the tone of the debate, I’d like to withdraw the request” says Salisbury.
  121. Gibson announcement: Acknowledges @hometownhockey_ event’s success and fine work of city staff and volunteers.
  122. Meeting adjourned. That’s a wrap for this month’s committee. Next council meeting is April 10.

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