With the current structure of Thunder Bay’s city council in place for 34 years, council is moving forward on asking the public how they think city council should be comprised.

On Sept. 21, council voted to proceed with having the city clerk’s office prepare a report on how to best engage the public on the issue.

Some options include hiring a consultant or forming a committee of community members.

“There is a whole scope of things that need to be identified before we really make that determination of how we’re going to move forward,” said Coun. Kristen Oliver, who brought the original motion forward asking council to examine possibly reducing council from its existing 13 members to nine.

However, an amendment was made on Sept. 21 to not look at any particular number and let the community decide what they feel would best meet their needs.

Oliver brought the idea forward because it’s something she consistently hears about as the Westfort Ward councillor. She will receive three to five calls a month about the size of council.

“It seem to me it’s top of mind for people,” she said. “It’s just time to have the discussion about the structure of council. We’ve been in this system since 1986 and we have different mechanisms now where the citizens can reach out to the city themselves to discuss issues or concerns they have, if it’s infrastructure or bylaw.”

Oliver said she believes the topic will garner fulsome discussion both at the council table and in the community.

“It may provide an opportunity for our citizens to have a better understanding of what a city councillor’s role is, too,” she said, adding changing the way council is comprised could also bring up questions around election reform, noting voter turnout rates in Thunder Bay have been stagnant.

“If that becomes an opportunity to change the way the system goes, would we see more engagement with the electorate?” she said. “People are holding politicians to a level where I think there needs to be better engagement.”

The city clerk’s office is expected to bring back a report with possible options for public consultation before the end of November.

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