A Halifax regional councillor says when she and her colleagues spend day and night at City Hall, skipping breaks and even meals, it isn’t healthy for them — or for the citizens of HRM.
Coun. Sue Uteck, who represents Northwest Arm-South End, told Metro Halifax Thursday she filed a formal health and wellness complaint with the municipality's human resources department this week after working more than 12 hours Tuesday with only a 35-minute dinner break between meetings.
Uteck said she started her day at 8 a.m. with “a working lunch” followed by in-camera council meetings until 5:40 p.m., then the public city council session from 6:15 p.m. until after 9:30 p.m.
“The rules of order state that council is to break at 4:30 p.m. in the afternoon (and) reconvene at 6 p.m.,” she said. “There’s obviously a very good reason for that.”
That reason, she said, “is to allow us to get up, clear our heads, walk around (and) get a bite to eat.”
If city councillors aren’t able to reenergize between these sessions, Uteck said they often end up rushing through decisions without enough debate.
“The decision-making deteriorates rapidly,” she said, adding it affects “the bottom line of the municipality.”
Uteck suggests holding committee of the whole and the regular city council session on separate days of the week, instead of trying to squeeze it all in on Tuesdays.
Mayor Peter Kelly said Thursday restructuring the council schedule is certainly an option, “if the majority of council wants to go in that direction.”
But he said Tuesday is typically the only long day each week, adding they try to stick to scheduled breaks as much as possible.
Kelly said meeting lengths depend on how much debate takes place — and on whether or not councillors stick to the issues.
“We have to allow that debate to take place to be free to the democratic process,” he said. “We have a job to do and the taxpayers expect us to do that job without whining and complaining.”