Right-left council committee split doesn't matter, or does it?

Much has been made of the new city council and its committee assignments now that organizational day is behind us, but what positions really matter?

City council members can't agree if newly-appointed positions really hold any power

Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi says vice-chair of the top committee, Priorities and Finance, is a job that matters — but not everyone agrees. Coun. Druh Farrell was appointed to the position, which the mayor says has a big role in the city budget process. (City of Calgary)

Much has been made of the new city council and its committee assignments now that organizational day is behind us. 

Mayor Naheed Nenshi came out to say to reporters: "We could spend all day doing Kremlinology on this if we wanted to."

But then he went on to say that "it doesn't matter" who gets what because everyone on council does the work.

However, there has been chatter of the "conservative takeover," the post-election Nenshi smackdown and lefties in retreat. 

One of those right-leaning councillors, Andre Chabot, gave his take on the so-called conservative takeover.

"You could look at it from that perspective. I do believe that those four chairpersons are considered to be more conservative-minded individuals, but at the end of the day decisions are made by council," he said. 

Chabot went on to say that committees may need four votes in favour of something to get it to the chamber floor but council makes decisions and that requires eight votes to get through.

Chabot did point out that while the chairs of committees can't debate from the chair, they do have the power to defer reports or slow them down. From that perspective, Chabot said "it does provide some additional authority to that individual."

What job does matter?

So, let's review: it doesn't matter who the committee chairs are but apparently they do have some extra sway in determining how things go in committees and ultimately to council (or not).

If these really are inconsequential jobs, then what job does matter on city council?

Apparently the vice-chair of the top committee, Priorities and Finance, is a job that matters. At least, that's what the mayor had to say.

"There's a grand total of one position that really matters and that position is the vice-chair of the PFC who essentially serves as my vice-chair going into a giant budget process and so if you really want to read the tea leaves, look at who got appointed to that position," said Nenshi.

He went on to say the job is especially critical as the city switches from a three-year to a four-year budget cycle.

Coun. Druh Farrell was picked by her colleagues for that job. Before her selection was made public, one of the right-leaning councillors was asked whether someone from the right, the left or a centrist councillor would be tabbed with the vice-chair of PFC job. That councillor replied that it doesn't matter who gets the job because it doesn't mean anything and that person doesn't have any power.

Confused? Don't be. Relax. It's just politics.

City hall observers get to watch and find out which camp is actually right (or correct) about what jobs matter. And a year from now, council will shuffle the deck and many of the assignments will change again.


To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.