By: LAURA KEIL
The Province has declared that McBride’s remaining Councillor and Mayor will form temporary quorum until a by-election can be held, the Minister’s office says.
Peter Fassbender, Minister of Community, Sport and Cultural Development, released a statement Wednesday saying it is unfortunate the community has found itself without quorum on council, after three councillors resigned mid-November.
“We recognize that a number of serious concerns have been raised within the community, and this is why restoring stability is my immediate priority by taking the following steps.”
On Nov 18th Councillors Ralph Bezanson, Sharon Reichert and Edee Tracy submitted their walking papers, leaving Councillor Rick Thompson and Mayor Loranne Martin as the only remaining members of council.
The former councillors issued an official statement that said “After several unsuccessful attempts to have our Councillors’ concerns addressed and having no other resource, we could not continue to participate any further on council, for the best interest of our community.”
The Minister says the mayor and the remaining council member have been advised not to make any long-term decisions, including any that create legal or financial liabilities for the village. “Their focus should only be on decisions essential to sustaining the operations of government,” the Ministry says.
Council must now appoint a chief electoral officer (CEO) and deputy chief election officer to run the by-election. Once appointed, the date for the general election will fall on a Saturday and be no later than 80 days after the CEO is appointed.
That means residents of McBride could be without a regular Council for as long as three months.
However, the minister says a municipal advisor will be brought in, paid for by the Province, to work with McBride village staff, council and the community to help stabilize municipal operations in the short term.
The advisor will also support the community and council by “recommending strategies for a successful and stable future,” the press release says.
“It is imperative that there is a clear path to order and good government so that community members interested in stepping forward as candidates in the by-election will have confidence in their road ahead.”
The Ministry has also directed the inspector of municipalities will meet with council and staff to provide additional information about the role of the municipal advisor, who will report back to her, and “to further emphasize my expectations of council while they act in their limited capacity,” Minister Fassbender says.
Mayor Martin has said the by-election will be held as soon as possible.
Former councillor Sharon Reichert says the three councillors resigned together in an attempt to get the Province to step in.
“I have lost all faith in my mayor and in my CAO… I can’t elaborate on that, for fear of ramifications,” says Reichert. “I felt the only way I could help the Village is to get the ministry to step in.”
In an interview with The Goat, Reichert cited “legal reasons” for declining to comment on what councillors’ concerns were but in an interview with CBC radio she said the Councillors had a hard time accessing information and were excluded from meetings that were attended by the mayor.
But in a statement released last week, Mayor Martin said the three councillors refused to attend regular council meetings and held their own special meetings at times when the Mayor was expected to be unavailable. Counc. Reichert has denied this.
The Village Economic Development Officer also resigned the same week, two days prior to the Councillors.
The three councillors who resigned were new to government as of the last election. They were elected together with the Mayor and another councillor (who has since resigned) as a brand new slate. This will be the second by-election this term, which still has two years left in it.
Since the last election, McBride residents hungry for change have cast blame on the current administration for being slow to make improvements and to secure and retain qualified Village staff. Several senior staff members have resigned over the past two years including the CAO, EDO and Director of Finance.
A day before the three resignations a social media thread had several local residents calling for the resignations of the three councillors who had supposedly been absent or unavailable for meetings.