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New West Progressives propose new railway, safety and sports committees

Crime reduction and public safety, railway issue, and amateur sports are areas where two incoming councillors would like to see more input
New Westminster City Hall
Two councillors-elect are calling for new civic commitees.

Two soon-to-be city councillors are calling for changes to city committees in New Westminster.

New West Progressives councillors-elect Paul Minhas and Daniel Fontaine will be recommending changes to the composition of the city’s committees and task forces.

 “What we’re requesting is that more of our committees become focused on the important day-to-day issues of concern to our citizens and small businesses,” Minhas said in a news release. “That’s why we’re proposing a number of new committees and task forces be established that will also serve to support a more open, transparent and accountable city government.”

Minhas and Fontaine, who were both elected under the New West Progressives slate, plan to submit a series of motions next week requesting that city council create and/or re-establish a number of committees.

This would include re-establishing the railway community advisory panel and creating five new committees or task forces: a crime reduction and public safety task force; a finance and city services standing committee; an amateur sport and recreation task force; a joint council-school board long-term planning committee; and a human resources committee.

“We heard from citizens and business owners on the doorsteps over the last six months that they didn’t want city council to operate ‘business as usual,'” Fontaine said in the news release. “That’s why we want to re-establish the railway community advisory panel and establish several other important committees that will support even greater community input.”

The New West Progressives’ election platform included a pledge to establish a new amateur sports and recreation task force comprised of representatives from all major sport and recreation associations operating in New Westminster. The NWP candidates also said there needed to be a more formal meeting structure for the city council and school board and a need to address issues like public safety and transparency about the city’s finances.

The former railway community advisory panel provided a forum for the exchange of information between the city and the railways operating in the city – Canadian Pacific, Canadian National, Southern Railway of British Columbia and Burlington Northern. It met quarterly to address plans, concerns or issues relating to railway operations in the city and to discuss railway infrastructure improvements and planned developments near railways. Co-chaired by the mayor (or a designated councillor) and the railways, it also included a maximum of three city representatives (a member of city council, an emergency services staff and another city staff), and a maximum of three residents.

Chuck Puchmayr, who ran for mayor in the recent civic election, had called for the re-instatement of the committee, saying it helped the city’s efforts to attain whistle cessation at railway crossings. During the campaign, he said he believed the elimination of that committee had stalled the city’s efforts to achieve whistle cessation at some railway crossings in the city.

Committee changes

In 2019, city council directed staff to proceed with a review of the city’s advisory committees. At that time, the city had 20 public advisory committees, three development committees, six granting committees, five mayor’s task forces, one standing committee (land use and planning) and three statutory committees (library board, police board and board of variance.).

As part of that review, representatives with the SFU Morris J. Wosk Centre for Dialogue interviewed council, key staff and committee members and surveyed community members. The consultant also interviewed people at four other municipalities about their advisory committees, and found New West had “significantly more” committees than those cities.

A staff report presented to council as part of that review stated that ACTBiPed (advisory committee for transit, bicycles and pedestrians), Intelligent City advisory committee, international relations task force, neighbourhood traffic advisory committee, railway community advisory panel, Remembrance Day, residents’ association forum and restorative justice are among the committees not seen in other cities.

In October 2019, council approved the final committee list and approved moving to an advisory committee structure that it deemed to be in align with and support its strategic priorities, including: affordable housing; culture and economic development; environment and climate; facilities, infrastructure and public realm; reconciliation, inclusion and engagement; sustainable transportation.

As part of that process, some committee’s mandates (such as ACTBiPed, neighbourhood traffic advisory committee, and the access ability advisory committees) were merged into other committees. Several committees – the railway community advisory panel, the Remembrance Day advisory committee and the emergency management advisory committee – became staff committees and no longer had community involvement.

That exercise saw the city decrease the number of civic committees from 38 to 30 (including the three statutory committees) in 2020.

The New West Progressives are encouraging community members to sign up to speak at the Nov. 28 council meeting about the motions they’re planning to put forward regarding new committees.