PORT HOOD: A saga reaching back to June concluded last Thursday as Inverness County’s Warden and Deputy Warden were voted out of their positions.
However, at the same regular monthly meeting where they were voted out, they were voted back into the positions from which, only minutes before, they’d been ousted.
For the next two years, Betty Ann MacQuarrie will serve as the county’s warden. Alfred Poirier will be the deputy warden.
“When I heard we had a two-thirds vote to remove me, I thought that was the end of the line,” MacQuarrie said. “I was ready to go back to my regular council seat and try to be effective there.
“I think we’re all ready to move forward as a team and put all of this behind us,” she said.
MacQuarrie faced a review of her position during November’s monthly meeting, at which time a motion was passed to vote on her future as warden.
MacQuarrie faced criticism from councillors John Dowling and John MacLennan, as well as Poirier. Although slightly more tempered in his criticism, councillor Jim Mustard agreed with putting MacQuarrie’s future as warden to vote. Only councillor Laurie Cranton was against the November motion.
Largely, the criticism was centered on an alleged lack of direction for the municipality.
This was the second time MacQuarrie faced such criticism. Last June, at a special meeting of council, the warden faced a performance review at the urging of Dowling, MacLennan, Poirier, and Mustard. Some of the matters cited at that time were the municipality not helping to fund the Allan J. MacEachern Airport in Port Hastings and alleged meetings between MacQuarrie and representatives of Cabot Golf, a company that was said to be looking at developing property in Mabou.
At Thursday’s meeting, Dowling, MacLennan, Poirier, and Mustard voted to remove MacQuarrie as warden. Cranton voted against that measure.
With MacQuarrie relinquishing her position, nominations were put forward for a new warden. Cranton nominated MacQuarrie, and Dowling put forward Poirier’s name.
This was a secret vote, with CAO Keith MacDonald and legal counsel Harold MacIsaac and Maurice Boudreau counting the ballots. MacDonald announced that the vote was tied at 3-3.
Consequently, in accordance with the Municipal Government Act, the position was decided by having a name picked out of a hat (in this case, a basket). The name drawn belonged to MacQuarrie.
It was a case of history repeating itself. When she first ran for warden in November of 2016, MacQuarrie was deadlocked for votes with Mustard, the other candidate for the warden’s seat. To settle that stalemate, a name was drawn out of a hat.
Now, once again sitting as warden, MacQuarrie said she’s hopeful council can get on the same page and work together for the future of the county.
“We need time to get together and talk about the issues in each district and realize what each councillor has slated out for them,” she said. “We have to be willing to help each other out as much as possible.
“It was difficult to think that some council members weren’t behind you, but I think everyone’s rallying to be a team now.”
She said there are no hard feelings lingering on her side.
The vote on Poirier serving as deputy warden was less contentious. Indeed, Poirier made the motion for him to be removed from his position, and all council members voted in the affirmative.
Cranton nominated Mustard for the position, and Dowling nominated Poirier. Both MacLennan and Dowling were nominated as well, but both waved off the potential assignment.
Once the secret ballot was cast, Poirier and Mustard were tied 3-3. At that point, two names went in a hat and one came out. Poirier’s name was drawn.
Talking to media after the meeting, Poirier said he felt he would have been qualified for the warden position, but he’s perfectly happy with the democratic process.
“We shook hands, and we’re going to go ahead with it,” he said.
“I’m 100 per cent behind Warden MacQuarrie, and we’re going to keep on working together. There was a division, but the six of us need to get together in a room and talk.
“We just need to sit back and relax,” he said. “We all had issues, we all had problems, but we just have to look at each other and say, are we going to make it work?”