Original Published 16:10 Jun 10, 2022

By Jesse Boily, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Many South Peace municipalities have adopted a new meeting to their schedules called the Committee of the Whole (COW) meetings.

Residents may have noticed the term cropping up more often when it comes to the activities of their local municipal council.

COW meetings are public and are intended to ensure full discussion on items that may require more time and thought than regular council meeting items.

Like regular council meetings, COW are attended by councillors and some administration members. Length of each varies, not only from municipality to municipality, but within a municipality depending on the agenda.

The City of Grande Prairie doesn’t have a set schedule for COW meetings; they are set by the mayor as needed.

The County of Grande Prairie schedules its COW meetings in an annual organizational meeting, with about one COW meeting per month.

The Town of Beaverlodge started hosting a COW meeting before every regular council meeting this February. Beaverlodge CAO Jeff Johnston said that council is hosting COW on a six-month trial.

The Town of Sexsmith began COW meetings in January, here they are held once a month and are subject to cancellation if there is no business to attend to, said Sexsmith CAO Rachel Wueschner.

Over in Wembley, it’s a similar situation as Sexsmith, said Wembley CAO Noreen Zhang.

So far this year, the city has had two COW meetings, the county five, Beaverlodge six, Sexsmith five, and Wembley four.

The meetings vary in length, with the longest being in the county (six hours and 15 minutes) and the shortest in Beaverlodge (21 minutes).

Cost of COW meetings to the taxpayers also varies. 

In Beaverlodge, councillors each receive $130 for meetings under four hours, so the councillors’ fees to attend is $910, plus the cost of administration time.

In Wembley, each councillor receives $150 for committee meetings, resulting in a cost of $1,050 plus the cost of administration time to attend COW.

In the county, each councillor receives $163.95 for meetings under four hours ($327.90 for meetings between four and eight hours) and the reeve $180.34 for meetings under four hours ($360.69 for longer ones). Thus, the cost for county COW meetings comes in at approximately $1,491.94 per, plus the cost of administration or $2,983.89 plus the administration cost for meetings between four and eight hours.

In Sexsmith, councillors each receive $150 per meeting and $175 for the mayor or chair, resulting in  $1,075 per meeting.

The City of Grande Prairie does not pay councillors per meeting. Councillors are paid a salary.