New council is ready to get to work

L-R: Kristopher Rivard, Daniel Gagné, Roch St-Louis, Jérôme Courchesne, Justice Colin Daniel McMorrow, Kathleen Thorne-Rochon, Fernand Pellerin, Kaitlyn Nicol, Jamie Restoule, Anne Tessier.

Isabel Mosseler


An entirely new municipal council was sworn in on Tuesday, November 15th , in a chamber full of family members and invited guests. Justice Colin Daniel McMorrow officiated the oaths of office and allegiance to the Crown, closing with West Nipissing Mayor Kathleen Thorne-Rochon, who then addressed the public. In her first official speech to the community as Mayor, Thorne-Rochon extended congratulations to her fellows electees. “We have a diverse group of councillors, ready to represent you and bring a fresh perspective and renewed direction to our municipal governance.” 

Thorne-Rochon stressed that the oath of office taken that evening was also a commitment to work in a “collegial manner for the benefit of our residents” and said she herself intended to model the behaviour expected. In a follow up interview, she reflected that such collegial behaviour is not something done solely in front of the camera. “Sometimes what happens in front of the camera is very different from what goes on behind the scenes.” She is making an effort to get to know everyone at town hall. “Yesterday was my first full day and I went in the morning… It’s not an act for me, I really want to work with everybody, and I like the people there… they are trying to do their jobs, and if we do it nicely, we’ll accomplish a lot more. Same with the other councillors … It’s not about agreeing on every issue; that doesn’t impact me. I respect other people’s opinions on individual issues. It is how we interact with each other, how we treat each other, how we talk to each other, and the respect you show despite different opinions.”

The  Mayor asked every councillor to look beyond their ward. “The ward system is a really great system as far as the representative role of a councillor… if somebody has an issue they would like to address, they know who to contact. But when we’re sitting at the table discussing these issues, a lot of those issues reach beyond the boundaries of a ward. It could have financial implications for the municipality, it could be a large project that impacts more than one ward. When we deliberate, we have to think about more than our corner; we do represent every taxpayer, (…) we also have a responsibility as a whole and to see the growth of the municipality as a whole.”

Asked how council can address overall issues and remain sensitive to individual communities, she responded, “It’s difficult, and one of the big challenges in this community. We were (5 towns) and 17 ½ distinct townships – there’s a lot of different places with different character, different history – it makes it challenging for West Nipissing, and the other challenge is our geographic size.”

She acknowledged that task would demand big changes not just from those elected but also their families. “I think it’s going to be an adjustment for all the families, not only schedules and appointments, but you have a thousand or 2500 residents in your ward who all know how to get a hold of you when they have problems – the phone rings at 8pm at night… Every council member will be preoccupied with the work they have taken on, guiding the municipality, and serving the residents. It’s a big commitment and if you are doing it well, it does take a lot time. All of our families will have to make adjustments.”

Thorne-Rochon is expecting a steep learning curve but feels this council is up to it. The next weeks will be full. “We will be doing a retreat early in the new year. Out first council meeting isn’t until December 6, but for the next two weeks we have orientation sessions planned. I haven’t seen the agenda for the first one, but the second one will be done by the municipal lawyer who gave the candidates Information session this spring… One of the things that he recommended is that when you get your agenda and see an item and want more information or clarification or don’t understand, give staff the heads-up ahead of time… it gives staff a chance to prepare (…) the information you may be looking for.”

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