Council refuses to discuss rejection of funding for Female Leadership School participants

MacLean unable to get item added to agenda for committee-of-the-whole meeting

ARICHAT: Richmond council is maintaining its opposition to sponsoring participants wanting to attend an upcoming Female Leadership School.

During Richmond Municipal Council’s committee-of-the-whole meeting tonight in Arichat, district 5 councillor Jason MacLean requested that the issue of giving $250 each to two women return to the council table for further discussion.

MacLean wanted to know how this item was rejected from the meeting agenda without an adequate explanation.

“It’s my understanding that we have two ways, as a councillor, to put items on the agenda,” MacLean told council. “You fill out the form the week prior to, or we bring it to council with unanimous consent. So in your time as warden, how many items have been denied?”

Richmond Warden Brian Marchand said he explained his reasons in an e-mail reply to MacLean, but didn’t receive an e-mail back.

“The leadership one has been somewhat dealt with here,” Marchand responded. “We’ve gone through a lot in the media so I think that’s done.

Since MacLean was unable to have the item added to the agenda a week before the meeting, the warden then requested he make the request of council.

District 4 councillor Gilbert Boucher expressed his opposition to the addition of that item to the agenda.

Despite the funding refusal, organizer and Port Hawkesbury Mayor Brenda Chisholm-Beaton told The Reporter the response has been overwhelming, noting there have been 15 positions sponsored privately from Richmond County businesses and individuals.

“We’re absolutely blown away at the support that we’ve received from local businesses, particularly in Richmond County that just see a tremendous value in investing in women and they certainly do support women as political assets in their community,” the mayor said.

During the regular monthly meeting in Arichat on February 24, Richmond Municipal Council rejected a request via correspondence from Chisholm-Beaton to approve $500 for two prospective participants.

District 1 councillor James Goyetche registered his opposition to the request, pointing out that the municipality has had seven women who were elected as councillors, wardens and deputy wardens over the years and those candidates didn’t have to attend a conference. Noting his stance is not about gender, Goyetche said this amounts to paying someone to run against him in the upcoming municipal election in October.

District 4 councillor Gilbert Boucher agreed that taxpayer’s money should not be used “to have someone sit in a classroom for a couple of days,” noting that if people want to be candidates, they can do what he did; put up money and throw their hat into the ring.

A request to advertise the municipality’s Web site and in The Reporter for those interested in attending was also denied by council.

After the meeting, Marchand added that the councillors do not support training people, not just women, to become councillors.

Chisholm-Beaton called the letter a “very small request” to help remove barriers for two participants.

“The $250 is more to remove any impediments that may discourage participation, like if there is a child care issues, or if there are transportation or travel issues,” the mayor explained. “We were hoping that all of the 100 positions that we are hoping to enroll, that would be completely barrier-free.”

The mayor said the response from the community could allow Richmond County to have “sober second thought.”

“Now that the community has expressed a tremendous amount of support for the leadership school for some women from Richmond County, they may have a change of heart,” Chisholm-Beaton stated. “I’m hoping that they will reconsider women as tremendous political assets, and I hope that they will see value in investing in women from Richmond County to learn about local government. And most definitely, women can run in elections, but let’s not forget, that they can also volunteer for municipal committees, they can take a diversified leadership approach that may not necessarily be running in an election, they may support other people who are running in elections.”

Organized by Government FOCUS (Female Objectives Cape Breton/Unama’ki/Strait), the Female Leadership School – a conference which offers municipal and band level government training for women in Cape Breton and northeastern Nova Scotia – is being held on May 1 and 2 at the NSCC Strait Area Campus.

At a cost of $60,000, Chisholm-Beaton explained the school is being supported financially by the federal and provincial governments, the Rural Communities Foundation of Nova Scotia, as well as the school’s 16 community partners. In addition, people from outside eastern Nova Scotia have sponsored participants.

The community partners include: the districts of Guysborough and St. Mary’s; First Nation communities Eskasoni, Membertou, Paqtnkek, Potlotek, Wagmatcook, and We’koqma’q; the municipalities of Antigonish, Inverness, Richmond, and Victoria; the towns of Antigonish, Mulgrave and Port Hawkesbury; and the Cape Breton Regional Municipality.

So far, Victoria County has sponsored eight seats; the Cape Breton Regional Municipality will back four attendees; Potlotek First Nation will pay for two residents; Inverness County is supporting six women; and the Municipality of the District of Guysborough will sponsor two participants, as will the District of St. Mary’s, the County of Antigonish, and the Town of Antigonish. The Town of Port Hawkesbury has agreed to fund four seats.

“We expect more support will come in,” Chisholm-Beaton noted.

The mayor added federal minister Bernadette Jordan has offered her support for the school and is encouraging other women in federal politics to do the same.

“We’ve been getting all kinds of calls and offers of support, so we’re confident that that community contribution for the project, that we’ll have no problem meeting that objective.”

For more on Richmond County’s rejection of funding for participants to the Female Leadership School, check out: