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Mark King faces the court of public opinion

Deputy Mayor Maggie Horsfield: 'It's one of those Mark-isms. He's trying to say something but that's not how it comes out.'
Coun. Mark King takes the oath of office on Nov.15 from Justice James A.S. Wilcox as (L-R) Coun. Justine Mallah, Coun. Sara Inch and Deputy Mayor Maggie Horsfield look on.

There is a period after a municipal election during which local pundits — and the politicians themselves — analyze,  often quietly,  the order of finish among the elected city councillors and debate how the council committees will be formed and chaired.

In the immediate aftermath of the October 24 election, re-elected Coun. Mark King went on the offensive in media interviews, suggesting the unique situation of three novice councillors garnering the most votes and earning the option to chair the council committees could be problematic.

Deputy Mayor Maggie Horsfield, whose brand of progressive politics and eagerness obviously resonated with voters, led a clean sweep by new candidates on the ballot to claim those top three spots, finishing just ahead of Councillors Lana Mitchell and Justine Mallah. 

Councillors Chris Mayne,  Tanya Vrebosch and Mac Bain join King as the only holdovers returned by voters from the previous council meaning six new faces, including Councillors Sara Inch, Jamie Lowery and Gary Gardiner, are playing prominent parts in taking on those committee roles.

To many, King's choice of words on election night — especially on live-to-air television — smacked of sexism but he maintains his concerns centred on their inexperience in municipal politics and not their gender. Many took exception to King comparing Horsfield to his own daughter in his on-air assessment of the election results.

"Once I heard about [King's] comments on election night, it was disappointing," says Horsfield. "I took a couple of days to take in why, and how, he had said it."

"Without question, it was the inexperience," he was referring to, King says. "Gary Gardiner will have a fair bit to learn, this is a new process for him. Jamie Lowery does have some experience but the council works a bit differently than, say, the Board of Cassellholme. He'll find it demanding. If you're doing your work, and you're prepared for council meetings, it takes an awful lot of time and effort."

Multiple letters to the editor were published in BayToday, with many criticizing King's take on the three female leading vote-getters. King says he has also been receiving a steady stream of hate mail. 

See: Letter: King should apologize for comments on female councillors

And: Letter: An open letter to Mark King

"I called Maggie and had about a two-hour conversation with her," King says, "about my feelings as far as the new council is concerned, what the challenges are going forward."

Horsfield confirms that the meeting was productive, they talked "about the city and we were able to see how we might not always agree but we do understand our role and what we need to do as a council. There are 11 of us, including the mayor, and if we want to move items forward, we have to learn to work together."

King says he has also patched things up with his other colleagues, including Mitchell, and there are no hard feelings around the table of which he is aware.

"Through an election, it can be very difficult. It's high-stress. But, once you come together as a group, we all recognize, and the mayor mentioned that, we're here to move the city forward in the best way we can do that. That's what I'm here for. It's good to get by that whole issue and move forward," he says.

"It's one of those Mark-isms," Horsfield observes. "He's trying to say something but that's not how it comes out."

"I didn't feel I needed to apologize," as King says he was trying to be helpful. "It wasn't meant in a malicious way. I know what it's like to be in these situations. They are stressful and when you are a new person, trying to work your way into it, it can be very difficult."

See also: Chirico promises change as mayor and council take oath of office

Now that the pomp and circumstance of the inaugural meeting are behind them, the members of this council, both new faces and returning, seem content to put any differences aside and work together for the good of North Bay.

"The mayor did an excellent job of outlining what needs to be done. Some of them I campaigned on. I look forward to moving those things forward," King says.

North Bay City Council meets for the first regular council meeting of its four-year term Tuesday at 6:30 p.m., available by live stream. There will be no committee meeting.

Stu Campaigne

About the Author: Stu Campaigne

Stu Campaigne is a full-time news reporter for, focusing on local politics and sharing our community's compelling human interest stories.
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