Discussion ensued at council

Municipality Matters

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by Deron Johnston

It was a very memorable council meeting held on Monday, January 14. It lasted nearly three hours and was full of important decisions and lots of discussion. There were two specific items that involved a fulsome dialogue for the council.

The first item was the decision to opt-in or opt-out of allowing retail cannabis stores in North Grenville. It was decided in a four-to-one vote in favour of opting in, with only Councillor, Craig McCormick, being opposed and also asking for a recorded vote of each member of council. Councillor McCormick appeared to be mostly concerned about the lack of municipal control, specifically when it came to the location of cannabis stores.

Other members of council also spoke, and appeared to be comfortable with their decision based on the amount of feedback through the two public meetings and the online survey (they received over 1,000 survey responses). They were grateful for the information that had been presented to them through the CAO, Brian Carré, the Lanark Leeds Grenville Health Unit, and industry expert Ivan Ross Vrana.

The second item was the recommendations made by Mayor Peckford for the committee and board assignments of each member of council. According to the mayor, each recommendation was made based on a number of criteria, including requests for specific assignments from council members, consultation with council members, consultation with the committees and boards, and discussions with the CAO. As mentioned by the mayor several times during the meeting, the final decision to accept, reject or amend the recommendations fell to council.

Councillor Craig McCormick (a retired OPP officer) took exception to not being named to the North Grenville Police Services Board and openly questioned the decision to exclude him from that board. He believed that his experience and knowledge, in his opinion, should have made him a “no-brainer’ to be on the board. According to the recommendations, Mayor Peckford (who is automatically assigned to the board according to the Ontario Police Services Act) assigned Councillor O’Sullivan to the board as the municipal council representative.

In response, the mayor said that after consultation and careful consideration, she made recommendations that were in the best interests of the community. She felt that Councillor McCormick would be a good fit for the Kemptville District Hospital Board because of the councillor’s interest in children’s mental health and the hospital’s significant efforts in that capacity.

Mayor Peckford invited the chair of the NG Police Services Board, Don Sherritt, to offer insight into some of the general criteria used to make a selection to the police services board. Don then spoke to some of the criteria involved in properly choosing according to the Police Services Act. Under the terms of the Police Services Act, police officers are not allowed to be part of the board because of a potential conflict of interest situation. Don noted that the police expertise for the board is provided by the Detachment Commander. Councillor McCormick felt that it was important to note that he was now retired and not an active police officer. However, the Act also disbars officers who have been retired for less than two years.

Each of the other three members of council spoke to the fact that they also had skills and experience in certain areas, but didn’t necessarily get the assignments that they requested. Councillor O’Sullivan referred to her on-going career as a Registered Nurse, but accepted that she was not assigned to the hospital board. Councillor Barclay spoke about what a great benefit it is to have more than one member of council who are very knowledgeable in a certain field, and how they can be a great resource for each other, working as a team. Deputy Mayor McManaman talked about his interest in being on the NG Police Services Board as well, but his overriding commitment was to do “what’s best for the constituents”, and, if these recommendations were what was best, he was willing to do it.

When asked by Councillor McCormick why this wasn’t brought to Committee of the Whole first, the Mayor asked Clerk, Cahl Pominville, to comment, with Cahl stating that this was a decision of council and that there were no staff reports to consider as part of the decision. Cahl also said that this was the first time in his twenty-year career that there had ever been any discussion on these appointments.

Despite the extensive conversation, Councillor McCormick stated that he “still didn’t understand the rationale for the decision”. After the discussion appeared to have been exhausted, the Mayor called for a vote on the recommendations. Councillor McCormick verbally considered an amendment to the resolution (for which he was advised by the clerk that he would need to state what he wanted the amendment to say, and that he would need someone to second the amendment), but then changed his mind saying: ”I won’t have a seconder anyway”.

The vote on the recommendations for council assignments passed in a vote of four to one, with only Councillor McCormick voting against. Council allowed for a review of the assignments after a year to make sure that everything was a good fit.

4 COMMENTS

  1. I wonder if the NG times has a link to the police service act that states you can not be retired within two years. As that is not what was said at the meeting and is recorded so in the council meeting video.

  2. Police Services Act, 2018
    PART IV
    MUNICIPAL POLICING AND POLICE SERVICE BOARDS
    Appointment of Police Service Board Members
    Appointment
    Considerations
    33 Former members of a police service
    (5) A former member of a police service is not eligible to be a member of a police service board unless,
    (a) the police service board does not maintain a police service that the person was a member of; and
    (b) at least two years have passed since the person ceased to be a member of any police service.

  3. Thank you for providing that information. It would appear at first glance, without reading the entire police services act that you are correct.

    However, this also concerns me. This to me demonstrates there is no communication happening in this new council. If the council members had been informed of this earlier, it would have not escalated to the point it did. The mayor knew a member was not happy because she brought in the chair of the police services board to defend her decision. Why would this explanation not have ben provided right from the beginning?

  4. I wholeheartedly agree. It certainly appeared that members of this council were not on the same page.

    Although all these members are new to their positions, they should have enough experience and common sense in their unique professional lives to handle things like this in advance. This, so everyone has understands the rational of what/why certain decisions are made. It doesn’t take a university education to understand that.

    In any working environment, when these things do happen, it makes management or council in this case appear disconnected and scrambling for justification behind decisions. In other words, unprepared and unprofessional.

    Even though we are very early into the first term of this new council, it is expected that there are to be some growing pains, as it would be in any new position. However, hopefully this new council will make a better effort to communicate, get on the same page, and serve the citizens of this community as a united front.

    Do I think that this council needs to communicate better?

    Yes

    Will they get there?

    Stealing the favorite word of our newly elected mayor…”indeed”.

    As I said, everyone knows and expects that there is going to be growing pains, and we are very early into the first term. The sample size is tiny.

    With Ms. Strackerjan set to replace to recently departed Mr. McCormick on council, I hope for swallowed pride, stability and strength amongst our council.

    I’m optimistic that they’ll get there, and I choose to remain confident that we as voters have made the right decision in electing them.

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