For over a year, West Nipissing’s council has been one councillor short. They are missing a representative from Ward 7—Verner—since Jeremy Seguin gave his resignation.
Normand Roberge was the next runner-up on the voting list and was considered by the municipality for appointment. However, council was unable to decide on how to go about filling the seat.
Appointment? Hold a by-election? Accept applications for the seat? Consensus could not be reached, with votes resulting in a 4-4 deadlock.
With the process of how to choose a councillor stalled, the possibility of welcoming a new councillor became even more distant.
This distance has become a chasm that may only be bridged by the next municipal election in November, 2022.
“There’s been no development,” on the councillor front, explained Dan Roveda, who is serving his first term on West Nipissing’s council.
He acknowledges “a level of dissatisfaction on how things are going,” adding that “it’s unfortunate that we didn’t have Mr. Roberge” join the team.
“He has a wealth of knowledge and he would have brought some stabilization to the table.”
Roveda also mentioned that people in the community are asking questions about council’s indecisions regarding a new councillor, “and essentially they are seeing this as not being progressive.”
Despite the missing councillor, “things are getting done” Roveda assured. “Administratively, things are getting done,” and municipal staff are “doing a very good job.”
“But at the council level, I think the mayor had not provided any leadership,” about the vacant council seat, Roveda said.
“Leadership should be gauging what the community wants, and moving forward that way,” he said, adding that “I feel the mayor is failing in her responsibilities, and this is where we’re at, and it’s just created divisiveness around the table.”
As for the seat remaining empty, “as far as I’m concerned,” it will.
“There’s only a year left now,” he said, “so the polls will rectify that issue in 2022.”
Melissa Diakoumeas, a spokesperson for the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing, mentioned that “the decision to fill a vacancy by appointment or by-election is the responsibility of the municipal council.”
Municipalities have “the authority to make decisions for matters within their jurisdiction, including deciding on how to fill a vacancy on council,” she added.
It appears as if West Nipissing chooses not to choose, but Roveda assures residents that “just because we’re set up in wards,” does not mean councillors are unavailable to help.
“I’ve been getting calls from people from Verner, I’ve been advocating for them.”
“I don’t think we’re disadvantaging Verner,” he said.
“There’s still going to be work done on roads in Verner, and the snow removal will still be done, and if there’s any complaints, they can seek help” from the remaining councillors.
David Briggs is a Local Journalism Initiative reporter who works out of BayToday, a publication of Village Media. The Local Journalism Initiative is funded by the Government of Canada.