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Municipal democratic reform to be examined this year in St. John's

St. John's Mayor Danny Breen.
St. John's Mayor Danny Breen. - Juanita Mercer

A committee will be struck around June, with a final report on any changes to elections due in 2020

A committee to examine democratic reform at the City of St. John’s won’t get to work until June, with a final report due in 2020.

Last July, the city moved to strike a panel to examine the question of allowing corporate and union donations for municipal campaigns. In September, council decided to expand the scope of the committee to cover even more questions.

Instead of an independent committee, an internal committee will be struck around June to examine the issues, with a final report due in early 2020.

“We decided that we were going to enlarge the scope of that work to include election reform and also going to look at corporate financial contributions, but also spending limits, composition of council, eligibility to vote in municipal elections and a whole variety of issues,” said Mayor Dannyy Breen.

“A big part of that will be public consultations. We have a number of projects that are ongoing that we’re doing public consultations on, so we wouldn’t be able to look at that before mid-year.”

"If you’re making changes to elections, obviously that’s not something that you would do without a lot of public input."

— Breen

The committee will be able to call in external consultants to review some of the questions, as needed.

With the next municipal elections scheduled for 2021, Breen says whatever the findings of the committee, there will be plenty of time to implement changes.

“If you’re making changes to elections, obviously that’s not something that you would do without a lot of public input,” he said.

“We want to make sure that we have a very robust engagement plan on this. We expect if the work starts mid-year, we’d like to have it concluded very early in 2020.”

The committee was struck to prevent elected officials from deciding their own fate and to keep things as arm’s length as possible from city council, though any recommendations will ultimately be voted on by councillors.

Elsewhere, an independent committee comprised of former auditor general Terry Paddon, chartered accountant Lynn Zurel and former municipal candidate Simon Lono is expected to complete a report in the next four to six weeks. That committee was struck to look at whether St. John’s City Hall could use a municipal auditor general. The committee’s report was delayed slightly due to some issues with members of the committee, but Breen says it’s not a time-sensitive committee, comprised of volunteers.

“There was some delays amongst the members of the panel in their ability to review the draft and complete that portion, but they seem to think they can have forward it to council very soon,” said Breen.

Meanwhile, Breen says he has no plans to run in the 2019 provincial or federal elections.

“I’ve no interest. I’m enjoying very much being mayor of St. John’s.”

Twitter: @DavidMaherNL

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