Hamilton City Council meeting in December 2022 Credit: Joey Coleman

Hamilton City Council announced Monday that they are cancelling all their March regular meeting.

The announcement was made as the city government entered its third week without computer systems following a devastating cybersecurity failure that became noticeable on Sunday, February 25.

When Council meetings resume (hopefully in early April), Council will face three issues they are contentiously divided on:

– a vote on converting portions of municipal downtown Stoney Creek parking lots into affordable housing;

– a motion to retroactively overturn a decision by a previous Integrity Commissioner declaring Ward 7 Councillor Esther Pauls had a conflict of interest voting on the Police Board due to her son’s employment as a senior police officer; and

– a vote to express Hamilton’s preference for LRT operations.

Council Tensions are Increasing

Council GIC vote on declaring two Stoney Creek municipal parking lots surplus and building 67 affordable housing units

The Stoney Creek affordable housing parking lot issue has brought out to the public some of the tensions that have been occurring behind the locked downs of the councillor’s area at City Hall.

With an 8-8 split on the issue, the affordable housing project is likely to die on a tie vote at the next Council meeting. But not before councillors go round the table with strongly worded speeches and surely a few accusations of bad faith.

Ward 15 Councillor Ted McMeekin wishes to retroactively overturn Council’s 2023 acceptance of an Integrity Commissioner ruling that Councillor Pauls had a conflict of interest when voting on the police budget.

Pauls was docked 15 days’ pay for her conflict.

Hamilton’s new Integrity Commissioner has more narrowly defined Pauls’ conflict of interest, stating she will only be in conflict when voting or speaking about the Hamilton Police Service’s collective agreements. The new IC says Pauls can vote on the police budget.

McMeekin’s motion will overturn the ruling and return to Pauls that 15 days of pay.

Ward 2 Councillor Cameron Kroetsch was the person who filed the integrity complaint against Pauls – something other members of council are not going to forget.

Add Exhaustion and Impossible Workloads to The Mix

I am observing factionalism growing during this council term, but for the most part, public chirping and disrespectful behaviour have been limited and momentary.

As I noted in my Feb 22 column regarding Strong Mayor powers and the Stoney Creek issue, there is a formal opposition bloc of six councillors on the right-centre, and a group of left-wing councillors who often split from council on issues.

If Council resumes in April, its first ratification meeting will be Wednesday, April 10—nearly two months after its February 14 meeting.

It will be a long meeting, with councillors required to cram nearly seven weeks of reading and work into the single week preceding.

They’ll be tired and the first Council ratification meeting will be long.

The conditions will be ripe for frustrations to boil over, which is why I expect Council will regret canceling all its March meetings.

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Published: March 12, 2024
Last edited: March 12, 2024
Author: Joey Coleman
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