Last night, West Nipissing council held a special meeting offering six candidates a chance to fill the empty Ward 7 council seat. After three hours, council decided to defer the decision until June 15th.
The clock is ticking to fill that seat, which has been vacant for almost two years. The Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing has stepped in and has given the municipality until June 30th to find a new councillor.
Nigel Bellchamber has been appointed by the ministry to act as a facilitator for the process—to help council work toward the goal of fulfilling Minister Steve Clark’s request. At last night’s meeting, Bellchamber reminded councillors of their obligations to fill that seat, “or possibly face both political and personal financial consequences.”
“Council may attempt tonight to fill the position,” Bellchamber said during his opening remarks last night, “and I would hope that they do, however, they do have until June 30th” to decide, “but the closer we get to June 30th, the more difficult things can become in terms of meeting the Minister’s timeline.”
“It would be preferable for everyone involved if the decision could be made tonight,” he emphasized, but council decided to postpone its final decision, and agreed to host a special meeting on June 15 to return to the issue.
Judging from comments on social media, mainly the Our West Nipissing Facebook group, the decision to defer has frustrated residents. One commentator mentioned “this candidacy selection is becoming a joke like everything else has been for months,” while another has become “thoroughly disgusted in the so-called leaders of this town.”
There is currently a poll on the page, listing all six candidates who put their name forward for the seat, and Verner residents are asked to pick their candidate “if you had the option after seeing last night’s meeting.” But the option is not theirs, as council is choosing by appointment.
Melissa Cyr, Larry Morin, and Fern Pellerin were all there last night, explaining to council why they should be the next councillor. Jamie Restoule, Christine Riberdy and Norman Roberge also had the chance to let everyone know why they would be the best choice to represent Verner at the council table.
After council’s decision to defer, each candidate remains in the running.
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.