Guelph could go with 8 full-time councillors instead of 12 part-timers

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Guelph city council could look very different after the 2022 municipal election as a new report recommends a complete overhaul of how many councillors the city needs.

The report says city council should be comprised of eight full-time councillors plus the mayor and that one city councillor be elected per ward.

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It would completely move the city away from 12 part-time councillors with two each representing six wards.

The eight councillors would still be elected in the ward system that is currently in place, which means staff would need to draw new boundary lines as the city moves from six to eight wards.

“A lot of research, analysis, community input and third-party expertise went into evaluating council’s makeup to prove residents with the best possible representation,” said Dylan McMahon with the city clerk’s office.

That third-party expertise came from Watson and Associates Economists Ltd. who worked with the city to come up with these recommendations.

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They point out that as Guelph grows, it will need more wards but there is no compelling argument to increase the current number of councillors.

“A system of one member per ward would allow the city to increase the number of wards and decrease the number of councillors simultaneously,” the consultant said in the report.

The shift would cost an estimated $212,700 in additional annual salary and benefits above the $578,300 currently provided to councillors.

The report also shows another $90,350 in annual salary and benefits for additional support staff along with a one-time expense between $198,000 and $237,000 to provide offices, meeting space and furniture at city hall.

If council approve these staff recommendations, then the city would begin to look at ways to increase Guelph’s ward boundaries from six to eight.

The city said Guelph’s wards have not changed since the 1990s and reviewing the boundaries would ensure fair representation as the city grows.

“Moving from six wards to eight is a significant change for this community,” McMahon said. “We recognize that each of Guelph’s current wards have six distinct, vibrant identities, which will be respected and enhanced if we move forward.”

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There will be a special meeting of city council to discuss and vote on the changes on Nov. 5.

The full report and information on speaking during the meeting can be found on the city’s website.

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