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Thunder Bay City Council 101: Councillor Quiz
Livio Di Matteo

Thunder Bay City Council 101: Councillor Quiz

THUNDER BAY, ONTARIO  ~~~~~  September 22, 2022  (LSNews)  We are now about a month away from municipal election night in Thunder Bay and the election signs have been popping up in clusters on numerous high-profile intersections across the city as both heralds and omens of the blessed event.  There is potential for a fair degree of turnover in city council this year and that will have both costs and benefits not least will be the learning curve for new councillors as they acquire the information needed to perform effectively as councillors. 

As has been noted, new councillors will need to be quick learners, multi-talented, adaptable, patient, and open to criticism both warranted and unwarranted and take it all in with a smile.  Indeed, adapting an old university joke to municipal government: City Councillors will need to take a lot of crap, the mayor will have to take a lot of crap and smile, while City Administrators must simply enjoy taking crap, given they have made a career out of it.  To assist incoming councillors in becoming City Councillors, find below a short multiple-choice quiz featuring hypothetical and not so hypothetical situations of varying degrees of seriousness and whimsy designed to test your knowledge and judgement on the eve of taking office.  If past experience is any indicator, returning councillors may also benefit from a refresher course. 

 

1.      You have spent two days with a prominent international business investor touring Thunder Bay showing them the local sights as well as parcels of municipal land available for sale and at the end of a successful visit, the businessperson announces intentions to invest.  The businessman is very grateful to you for your time and proceeds to privately present you will an expensive gift item (eg. Diamonds, expensive Scotch, etc..) as a show of appreciation.  You:

A.     Accept the gift as this is a common practice in their home country and you do not wish to offend them.

B.     You inspect the gift carefully for flaws in craftsmanship and file a report with the Canadian Manufacturer’s Association.

C.     You thank the businessperson for their kind thoughts, respectfully decline the gift and note that you were simply doing your duty as an elected official.

D.    You ask for gifts for all the members of council as well as the mayor because after all it has been a team effort.

E.     Ask for cash in lieu of the item as economists have demonstrated that cash transfers are welfare enhancing.

F.     Return the kind favour by offering to sell them a piece of land you personally own at a discount in lieu of buying the municipal property.

 

2.     By how much do you think the municipal tax levy should go up for the 2023 budget year?

A.     The rate of inflation.

B.     By whatever amount the city manager recommends but divided by two.

C.     The rate of inflation plus whatever percentage salary increase is going to go to senior city managers.

D.    Whatever it takes.

E.     Whatever the public lets you get away with.

F.     The rate of inflation plus the rate of population growth and divided by one tenth of the square root of the combined weight of any randomly selected six members of city council.

3.     Within two weeks of taking office, it is suddenly revealed that there is a major crisis in the finances of the City of Thunder Bay as a result of several successful lawsuits against the city as well as assorted unforeseen infrastructure and policing expenses, and the city is on the verge of bankruptcy.  You:

A.     Resign immediately.

B.     Blame the previous three city councils and mayors and then resign.

C.     Try to deflect attention from the crisis by proposing a motion to review street names with the aim of creating one name for streets currently with two or three separate names.

D.    Ask the provincial government for a bailout.

E.     Ask for a study from City Administration on the extent of the crisis and proposals to deal with it with a projected delivery date 12 months down the road.

F.     Take to social media with a campaign arguing that municipal financial problems are fake news.

4.     There has been talk of reforming Thunder Bay city council as to the size of city council as well as whether there should be Ward and At-Large Councillors.  City council should be reformed as follows:

A.     8 Ward councillors plus a mayor.

B.     8 At-Large councillors plus a mayor.

C.     4 Ward councillors, 4 At-Large Councillors plus a mayor and vice-mayor.

D.    4 large councillors, 4 small councillors plus a large mayor and a small vice Mayor.

E.     The Status Quo (7 ward councillors, 5 At-large plus a mayor)

F.     Modified Status Quo (6 ward councillors, 6 At Large plus an invitation to Prince Andrew to be our mayor for life).

G.    Hereditary Ward Councillors with formal titles (eg. Earl of Current River or Duke of Westfort) and the line of succession being the offspring or designate of current councillors starting, of course with the council as elected on October 24th.

5.     What are the most important things to understand about attending a City Council meeting as a municipal councillor?

A.     The distinction between a balance sheet, a revenue statement, an expenditure statement, capital budget, operating budget, and slush fund, but not necessarily in that order.

B.     When it comes to meeting length, time is money, and that long meetings must mean the participants have an abundance of both.

C.     Robert’s Rules of Order and Codes of Conduct should be viewed as mere constraints on the creativity of councillors when it comes to interacting with one another and the public in solving issues.

D.    Deputations and public input are simply a formality and should be taken as an opportunity for you to demonstrate your rhetorical skills in debate with presenters.

E.     During televised meetings, it is important to turn off your microphone if muttering under your breath as well as make sure you do not fall asleep on camera.

F.     In-camera meetings are not a photo opportunity but where the real business of council takes place.

Suggested Answers:

1.     C though F may be tempting for some.

2.     E as F while technically elegant might be beyond the math skills of the average councillor.

3.     D or E are acceptable though C is an excellent diversionary tactic.

4.     E is likely given the law of inertia though F or G might be good for tourism.

5.     F with D and E acceptable choices for part marks.

#LSN_Elections #LSN_TBay  

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The Northern Economist blog started on Shaw Webspace as commentary and analysis of economic issues and policy from a Northern Ontario perspective by Livio Di Matteo, Professor of Economics at Lakehead University in Thunder Bay, Ontario, Canada. It had regular posts from November 2010 to February 2012. Posts continued on Northern Economist 2.0 until 2013 when I took an extended break. Occasional posts resumed effective December 2016. With Shaw terminating its blog space functions, I have archived the old posts at: northerneconomistarchive.blogspot.ca.


The views expressed in this opinion article or photos are solely those of their author and are not necessarily either shared or endorsed by Lake Superior News / Lake Superior Media.

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