- BIANCA MÜLLER
It's not the kind of chart most politicians want to be topping, but Brad Johns makes no apologies for having HRM Regional Council's worst overall attendance record in 2015.
“My priority has always been my district, things going on in my district,” says Johns. “Whether it’s a seniors' dinner, or calling BINGO…that takes priority for me.”
With a total of 19 absences, the councillor for Middle/Upper Sackville-Beaverbank-Lucasville missed more Committee of the Whole, standing committee and community council meetings than anyone else in City Hall. Johns also missed three regional council meetings, which is the second-highest absentee rate behind former councillor Darren Fisher (who was granted a two-month leave during last fall’s election).
In 2014, Johns missed 25 meetings or about one third of his total scheduled requirements. He’s brought that absentee rate down to about 22 percent in 2015, but still missed a third of the Appeals Standing committee’s 12 meetings and more than half of the Environment and Sustainability committee’s nine.
The councillor of 16 years brushes off any criticism he’s underperforming by missing so many meetings.
“My residents get more than my value out of me,” Johns says. “As to what somebody in Dartmouth or downtown Halifax has to say, that’s irrelevant...It’s the people I work for, that’s what matters to me.”
Only Russell Walker (Halifax-Bedford Basin) had perfect attendance last year for all council and committee meetings.
“I feel, I’m on the committee, I have an obligation to be there,” says Walker. “That’s part of the job, in my opinion.”
David Hendsbee (Preston-Chezzetcook-Eastern Shore) and Jennifer Watts (Halifax Peninsula North) are tied for second place, each missing just one standing committee meeting. Councillor Stephen Adams (Spryfield-Sambro Loop-Prospect Road) missed one community council and two standing committee meetings for the third-best attendance record.
There were 26 regional council and 24 Committee of the Whole meetings in 2015. The latter usually take place immediately following the former, so one sick day could result in two meetings missed.
It’s also worth noting that not all councillors have the same commitments. Some councillors sit on more of HRM’s six standing committees than others, providing more chances to be absent. Bill Karsten, for example, is on four standing committees. Tim Outhit is on two. Mike Savage is on one.
The committees and community councils also have varied meeting schedules. The Audit and Finance committee met 12 times last year, while the Transportation Standing Committee only met eight. The North West Community Council had 16 meetings in 2015, but the Harbour East-Marine Drive Community Council (which had better overall attendance) only had 10 meetings.
Councillors also are usually a part of any number of HRM’s 33 advisory committees, commissions and external boards. So make of all this what you will.
The attendance records, provided by HRM, are embedded below.
UPDATE: HRM spokesperson Jennifer Stairs emails The Coast to say one Committee of the Whole absence was inaccurately recorded for Linda Mosher. We've adjusted the above graphics with that information.