After Ward 4 Coun. Sean Chu was barred from membership on city boards, committees and commissions, questions rose around his council role.
Did this measure have any teeth, or was it just a symbolic censure?
Chu has been under fire since stories by CBC and CTV surfaced just prior to, and on the day of, the Oct. 18 Calgary election. They involved his contact with a 16-year-old girl while he was a member of the Calgary Police Service. One story also reveals another 2008 incident involving Chu.
In that time there have been widespread calls for his resignation, including by many members of the new Calgary city council. Opposing citizen rallies were held two weeks ago – those in favour of Chu’s democratically-elected position and those believing he should resign.
Chu has said he won’t resign.
On Nov. 1, city council held part two of their organizational meeting. In that meeting, councillors were appointed to different boards, committees and commissions.
Ward 9 Coun. Gian-Carlo Carra put forward a motion to suspend the part of the city’s procedure bylaw that paved the way for Chu to be blocked from committee appointments.
“What this is doing is it is allowing the pro-tem committee to consider not appointing Councillor Chu or any other member of council to a standing policy committee, which is one small piece of power that this council can exercise,” Carra said at the meeting.
What can Sean Chu do?
Coun. Chu can still participate in the council committee meetings where he attends.
However, the city’s procedure bylaw does somewhat limit what non-member councillors can do at those meetings. There are five primary council committees: Infrastructure and Planning, Community Development, Audit, Intergovernmental Affairs and Executive.
Chu is able to attend and take part in debates in those council committee meetings. He may also vote on items in those meetings. He can also take part in closed meetings (in-camera). What’s not clear in the city’s procedural bylaw is if he can create action, aka motions. (We’ll get to that more in a moment.)
According to the procedure bylaw, non-members cannot make nominations for Chair or Vice-Chair, and they don’t count towards a meeting quorum.
Much of this was confirmed by the City Clerks’ office.
“In accordance with Council’s Procedure Bylaw, all Members of Council receive Council Committee meeting materials and are permitted to attend, participate in, and vote in Council Committee meetings.”
This shifts a little with boards, committees and commissions that are not established through the city’s procedure bylaw.
In addition to not making nominations or being counted towards a quorum, a non-member councillor may not vote, nor make motions in those meetings, unless otherwise noted in that group’s governance. They’re only allowed to participate in debate and discussion.
Since the 2017 election, Sean Chu has stayed steady with participation in at least six committees. Most years he’s been a part of four council committees, including being vice-chair of the former Priorities and Finance committee.
After the 2020 organizational meeting, Chu sat on four council committees and two other committees (Calgary Parking and Emergency Management Committee).
Limited by provincial rules on dismissal
The province has said they’ve enlisted outside legal advice to determine the next steps for this situation. The city has acknowledged they’re limited by rules set out by the Municipal Government Act.
“Council has very limited ability to do anything. We have acted in the best way that we can today,” said Mayor Jyoti Gondek in a break during that meeting.
“We needed to take some sort of action as a council – we did. We did what we could. We will continue to wait and see what the provincial government is interested and are able to do.”
Provincial rules don’t mandate that committees have to be formed, nor must councillors sit on them if created.
Chu said at the meeting his intention is to serve Ward 4 to the best of his ability.
“I believe that if taken out of any standing policy committee, it’s improper,” he said.
“Basically, we are slapping the electors on the face in Ward 4.”
Chu is on the deputy mayor roster approved by Calgary city council on organizational day. He will be deputy mayor in December 2022.
Further, Carra’s motion ends with the 2022 organizational meeting of council.