Wed. Aug 10th, 2022

Ottawa’s influential planning committee will have co-chairmen for the first time in its history, the city council decided in its last meeting before a summer break on Wednesday.

Kanata South Coun. Alan Hubley introduced a proposal at the meeting to split the work of planning committee chair between two people, rather than having traditional chairmanships and vice chairmanships.

Ottawa has not had a permanent planning chair since late June, when veteran councilor Jan Harder resigned following a report on the integrity commissioner that showed she had misunderstood her relationship with a development chief.

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Hubley’s proposal mentioned the importance of finalizing the new official plan for the remaining term of the Council as a justification for dividing the workload between co-chairs.

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Three candidates submitted their names for the two positions: Kitchissippi Coun. Jeff Leiper, Rideau-Goulbourn Coun. Scott Moffatt and Stittsville Coun. Glen Gower, the latter of whom has served as interim chairman of the planning committee in Harder’s absence.

Councilors were given the opportunity to vote for their two preferences for co-chairs during a vote in the council.

Gower and Moffatt won the positions with 14 votes each; Leiper received nine. While most of Gower and Moffatt’s supporters voted for both, each of Leiper’s nine backers voted for him alone.

Leiper’s losses maintain the long-term trend of rural and suburban council chairmen chairing the city’s planning committee.

Mayor Jim Watson, who supported Gower and Moffatt in the vote, defended the choice not to increase the city council’s influence on the planning committee, which spoke to reporters after advice.

“I have full confidence in Councilors Moffatt and Gower,” he said, referring to their complementary perspectives as veterans and novices.

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Moffatt, who is also chairman of the city’s environment committee, stated before the vote that he would also seek to retain that position if he was successful. City staff said they would take the summer break to evaluate the implications of the planning committee’s vote and any other shifts needed to accommodate it.

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Bay Coun. Theresa Kavanagh said before the vote that councilors were not made aware of the chairman’s proposal before the council meeting and that the plan could have benefited from having a female candidate for consideration to promote gender equality.

Somerset Coun. Catherine McKenney also noted that each of the city’s standing committees is chaired by men, representing a deficit in women’s leadership in the Ottawa committee.

“We’re not a fair piece of advice as to who we have at the table,” McKenney said.

Leiper urged other women councilors to put their names forward for consideration by a co-chair role before the vote, but no one did.

In a separate proposal, Capital Coun. Shawn Menard was added as a member of the planning committee with Harder’s disagreement.

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