Town council and staff hope for good advice to avoid past pitfalls
A final report from the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing (MMAH) regarding the impasse faced by the former West Nipissing council (2018-2022) is not expected to be released until later in 2023, according to ministry spokesperson Matt Carter. The report was originally expected this December.
On April 25 this year, Minister Steve Clark addressed a letter to former mayor Joanne Savage and council “expressing serious concerns about the function and conduct of the workplace and of council” in the municipality, and dismay that the Ward 7 council seat had remained vacant since July 21, 2020. Clark directed his staff to undertake “a review of the administrative practices, policies, and procedures” and to “report back on any recommendations to council for improvements”, with that report to come before council and the public once completed.
On May 10, 2022, Kathy Horgan, MMAH Manager of Local Government and Housing, was at council to follow up on the letter. In addition to the review, MMAH assigned Bryan Searle, Sudbury municipal advisor, to attend council meetings until the end of the term and also named facilitator Nigel Bellchamber to oversee the appointment of a Ward 7 representative before June 30, 2022. That representative, Normand Roberge, was eventually drawn by lot as council never managed to agree on an appointment.
In response to a query from The Tribune regarding the failed practices, policies and procedures that allowed Ward 7 to go unrepresented for a full two years, and the suggested recommendations to ensure it doesn’t happen again, MMAH spokesperson Matt Carter wrote, “West Nipissing experienced a full turnover of council following the October 2022 municipal election. We understand that the new council is currently focused on learning about their roles and responsibilities and acquainting themselves with municipal policies and procedures. Once the final report is complete, ministry staff will work with municipal staff in the new year to schedule a time to present it to the new council and the public.” It is expected that the research and recommendations will serve as a guide for any similar situations in the future.