Dufferin News Municipal Politics

Update on vacant council seat in Amaranth Township

Amaranth Township Mayor Bob Currie "We're headed for trouble, there is no other way to describe it!"

“We’re headed for trouble, there is no other way to describe it”, exclaimed Amaranth Township Mayor Bob Currie.

There remains no clear way forward in the aftermath of Mark Tijssen vacating his seat on the council of Amaranth Township. After formally accepting the resignation and being unable to agree on one of the three recommendations presented by CAO Nicole Martin at the October 7th council meeting, remaining councillors requested additional options be brought forward at the next council meeting. At Amaranth council’s meeting on October 22nd, Martin presented three more alternatives.

The first option listed in the report was to remain status quo, leaving the council seat empty. Martin emphasized in the report, and again verbally at the meeting, that this runs the risk of council not obtaining quorum. According to the report, if quorum is not met and council is not able to meet for 60 days, the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing may declare all offices of the council to be vacant and order that a by-election be held. This would be performed in accordance with the Municipal Act and the Municipal Elections Act. With two years of meetings remaining in the term, and Amaranth’s mayor recently expressing intentions to resign, this risk is not insignificant.

Of councilmembers, Mayor Currie was the first to raise concerns, “If we lock horns, Municipal Affairs will dissolve council and everybody’s name will be on the ballot!”

The second choice brought forward was a method of filling the vacancy through council appointment, but with each of the four councillors required to nominate one person. This was the recommendation outlined in the report. At a special meeting, each nominee would be granted ten minutes to address council, which would be followed by each councilmember being permitted to ask the candidate two questions. There would be two minutes to respond. Nominees, when not addressing council, would be sequestered in a separate room. A scored public vote would be held among councilmembers of Amaranth Township, which would then be tabulated by the clerk. In most cases, the chosen candidate would require votes from three out of four members of council. In the event of a tie, candidates would be excluded or selected by lot, depending on the circumstance. If the second option is chosen, CAO Nicole Martin said this may likely lead to everybody’s ‘second-choice’ joining council.

At the meeting, council was not receptive to this idea. Councillor Gail Little explained that it gives ‘too much weight’ to members of the council and that she would like more public involvement. Mayor Currie raised similar concerns of Amaranth’s residents not having sufficient say in who represents them.

The third alternative presented was for the council of Amaranth Township to find a solution amongst themselves, which could include following procedural by-law to reconsider one of the options previously turned down at the October 7th meeting. According to the report, this would require the consent of at least two-thirds of the councillors present or a member of the prevailing side to bring forward a motion to reconsider.

“I have reached the point as to where it is not an issue”, said Councillor Heather Foster in reference to the empty council seat, “or while it is an issue… we are deadlocked and I do not think it is one that is going to be resolved.” Foster further explained how she is very strong in her opinions and that she is “not going to change them”. Councillor Foster has made it known that she wishes the seat to be filled by the candidate who garnered the most votes in the previous election.

Councillor Gail Little had similar sentiments with leaving the seat empty, explaining other municipalities have done this with no repercussions. Mayor Currie then raised concerns regarding the motions he was not able to vote on during this term. Examples include efforts to have the mayor’s delegated powers revoked and to restrict Bob Currie’s attendance at the township office, which stemmed from a legal opinion that was subsequent to a workplace harassment investigation into the Township of Amaranth.

Towards the end of the discussion, Amaranth’s Deputy Mayor Chris Gerrits said he was unsure what the Mayor was alluding to when he said that council was heading for trouble. He also stated that Municipal Affairs has “made it clear that they will not interfere”.

Councillor Heather Foster said “We’ll find out as time goes”.

Mayor Bob Currie followed up with “Time will tell, that’s for sure”.

The matter ended with council voting to receive the report as information. No option was chosen by council.

Dufferin News will continue to follow the matters of Amaranth Council closely and bring you up-to-date stories on the areas in Dufferin County that do not get adequate coverage.

References – Update on vacant council seat in Amaranth Township

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