PORT HOOD: The next meeting of Inverness Municipal Council takes place on December 6, and at that time council has a very important vote on its hands.
In a situation that draws to mind municipal drama from last June, council will vote on whether or not to remove Betty Ann MacQuarrie as warden or continue under her leadership. With that, a second vote will decide if Deputy Warden Alfred Poirier keeps his current position.
In order to have either MacQuarrie or Poirier removed, two-thirds of council (four of the six members) have to vote for change. If council votes for a change, a new election for warden and deputy warden will take place at that time.
“We’ll see what happens,” said MacQuarrie. “If we have two-thirds vote for a change, we’ll have an election for a new warden.”
She added that she does have some support on council, and that having four members vote for electing a new warden may not happen.
“It’s up to council,” she said.
The municipal unit held its regular November session last Thursday, and the primary matter discussed was a review of the warden and deputy warden.
Inverness County’s policy is to conduct a review of those positions every two years, irrespective of how the council members are interacting.
Last June, Warden MacQuarrie also faced a review. It was prompted by four members of the municipal unit who had criticisms of her performance. A vote on replacing the warden was held then as well with Deputy Warden Alfred Poirier, and councillors John Dowling and John MacLennan voting to remove the warden.
Councillors Laurie Cranton and Jim Mustard voted to keep the warden in place, and MacQuarrie voted to remain in the warden’s chair.
This time out, Cranton was once again in favour of keeping MacQuarrie at the helm. He voted against the motion to have a future vote on removing MacQuarrie.
“We went through an exercise in June where there was a lot of public interest, and we stayed with our leadership,” he said. “I don’t see any need for a change at this point in time.
“After that difficult period, I was pleased with how our warden carried out her leadership.”
Councillor Mustard said council seems to be missing a strategic direction, and based on that, he voted to have a change of leadership.
“That’s not a reflection on the warden’s position, but as a council I think we lack strategic direction,” he said. “I think we lack a sense of unity.”
Councillor Dowling said he and the other council members learned a lot from the June meeting, but he added that he still has questions about MacQuarrie’s leadership which haven’t been addressed.
“I don’t see the vision,” he said of council’s current direction. “I was looking forward to a phone call after the June meeting saying what can we do to work this out, but I didn’t get that call.”
Councillor MacLennan said he was in agreement with Dowling.
“Since the June meeting, we never got anything straightened away,” he said. “When you were elected warden, I supported you. I thought you’d be a good person for the job, but it didn’t really turn out that way.”
Deputy Warden Alfred Poirier was also in favour of having the warden’s position voted on. Communication issues is one major problem he sees, especially as it relates to Acadian communities.
“If we don’t change, it’s not going to get any better,” he said.
MacQuarrie said that she regretted hearing some issues from the June meeting were still a matter of concern for some council members. She noted that she was under the impression that those matters were behind them.
She also listed a number of council’s accomplishments since the current members were elected, including following the recommendations of an organizational review, dealing with three Chief Administrative Officers, hiring new people and introducing new positions, and forming an agreement with the provincial government to take over the Cheticamp water system.
“These aren’t things I’ve done, it’s what we’ve all done,” she said. “Looking forward, we have to work together.”
Originally, council was of the impression that a vote on keeping or replacing the warden and deputy warden could be done at the November meeting, but solicitor for the municipality, Harold MacIsaac, noted that the Municipal Government Act didn’t allow that.
Written notification had to be offered for the intent to have such a vote, and a period of 20 days had to pass before the vote is taken. As a result, the vote will now take place at the December 6 meeting.
Council voted 5-1 in favour of having the warden position voted on. The vote for deputy warden will take place at the same time, and the motion passed unanimously.