Fed-up locals are looking from help from higher up as they try and get West Nipissing’s dysfunctional town council to put aside their differences and get the job done.
What first started as a petition by locals Lynn Murphy and Michel Gervais has become the formation of the West Nipissing Action Group, as they work with other frustrated residents to explore avenues to get this current council back to working for the people of the municipality.
“They were elected at the end of the day, they all have their job to do, but they’re not doing their jobs, so we’re working toward solving the issue rather than just bashing,” says Gervais, who aims to keep the group neutral and unbiased. “I understand people are frustrated, I’m also frustrated but bashing and gossiping doesn’t lead to any solutions, it just divides people and we’re trying to have everyone work together. Because we need community now more than ever, especially with COVID, we need everyone to just get along. I know it’s hard, but at the end of the day, that’s going to be the best thing to do.”
Murphy and Gervais each had ideas to start a petition over the last month and decided to join forces, making both online and written versions available. So far, they’ve collected close to 1000 signatures.
Their petition calls for the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and the Ontario Ombudsman to investigate and intervene with the local council, who have failed to hold a regular council meeting since Nov. 16 due to a lack of quorum. (At time of print, it appears the Dec. 21 meeting will also fail to reach quorum.)
The latest divisive issue on council is a notice of motion brought by the mayor regarding an ongoing HR matter. Four members of council have been refusing to attend meetings while the motion to discuss the matter in an open forum – against the advice of the town’s Director of Corporate Services – remains on the agenda. In the typical four-four split, one side says it’s up to the mayor to remove her notice of motion so that meetings can resume, while the other camp blames the four who have been refusing to attend for stalling town business.
“I was just fed up with Facebook chatter and just wanted to action something,” says Murphy. “We all know this has been systemic and it goes back to 2019. It’s not just this (CAO discussion) issue, this issue right now is the current excuse… to me, you guys are professionals, you have been hired to do a job, you stepped up to the plate to do the job, and I think they need to get back to the table.”