Position of reeve in Whitewater may become redundant

·6 min read

Whitewater Region – A 30-day public consultation period has begun to allow residents the opportunity to make their opinions known on whether the make-up of Whitewater Region council should be changed.

Councillor Charlene Jackson brought forward a Notice of Motion at the October 20 council meeting to change the make-up of council by eliminating the reeve’s position and replacing it with another councillor-at-large. Following the election, council then determines how a deputy-mayor is elected/appointed by council to fill in for the mayor when necessary.

While a Notice of Motion is usually not discussed when it is first brought to the table, Coun. Jackson explained why she wanted the issue discussed.

“It has come to my attention the number of municipalities that don’t have (a) separate mayor and reeve,” she said. “Most are mayors (who) sit at county council.”

While it’s a heavy load for the mayor, Coun. Jackson said she is aware there are meetings called by the county warden where the mayor is invited to attend, as head of the municipality, and the reeve is not.

“It’s a double-edged sword,” she said. “While we like to spread out the duties a little bit more, in the last couple of years, I understand that Reeve (Cathy) Regier has attended most, if not all functions, with our mayor.

“But, it’s difficult for Reeve Regier not to be involved in discussions when the mayor is just called in.”

She further pointed out it’s not really necessary for the reeve and mayor to attend the same functions within the municipality, but it’s happening.

Coun. Jackson suggested a review of council make-up should occur and along with eliminating the reeve’s position, have a deputy-mayor’s position created. This person could represent the mayor if required.

Chief Administrative Officer Robert Tremblay said a change in council make-up must occur in the year preceding an election, which means a decision would have to be made by December 31 this year.

“That would give us time to review,” Coun. Jackson said.

While Councillor Dave Mackay said a full-time mayor would be required, Mayor Mike Moore disagreed. He noted Whitewater Region council meets twice a month and county meetings are twice a month, as well as special meetings for both throughout the year.

However, Coun. Mackay didn’t change his position, noting that having a full-time job as well as being the mayor sitting at council would be a lot for one person.

Councillor Daryl McLaughlin recalled when this council reduced the number of council members to seven from nine and when the ward system was dissolved.

He agreed with Coun. Mackay that it would be very tough to hold down a full-time job as well as being the mayor without a reeve. He said by doing so, those who have a full-time job may not run for the top position even if they are qualified to do so.

“There have been a lot of changes in policies and a lot of changes in faces, but you want to get the right person to do the job,” he said.

Coun. McLaughlin questioned if the reeve could be the head of council, thereby sitting at the council table, but was advised that under the Municipal Act the mayor is the head of council.

Reeve Regier, who was elected at the 2018 municipal election, agreed with Coun. Jackson’s suggestion.

“I think it’s time for Whitewater Region moving forward,” she said. “It’s time for the mayor to be sitting at the county table for a couple of reasons.”

She pointed out the mayor is not privy to discussions held in closed county council sessions.

“We are taking away from the mayor of Whitewater Region to have a voice at the table and I think it’s important that the person sitting as head of council has that voice,” she said. “It’s important he be there.”

It’s also an opportunity for the mayor to see what’s happening throughout the county, she said.

“I remember when I came on, I was going to go guns and roses and bring everything that happened at county council back to council,” Reeve Regier said. “But that doesn’t happen because a lot of things happen at the county, and unless Whitewater or something is really important, if it doesn’t affect us, then I don’t want to bore or inundate people. Some councils get a full report. Believe me, you don’t want that.”

Councillor Neil Nicholson was more concerned with how the 30-day public consultation would occur.

“Describe to me so I understand exactly what we are doing,” he said.

Mr. Tremblay said a notice will be issued that council is looking for comments regarding the make-up of council and people will have to provide comments to the clerk by a certain date. He said the notice will be in the township’s block ad in local newspapers, on social media and the township’s web site.

“And on the 29th day I’m going to get a phone call from someone who says they never heard of this,” Coun. Nicholson said. “I encourage we push that information out, multiple times, if necessary, especially on social media.”

As for a mayor who represents a municipality at county council and fulfills their job, he’s not sure how that happens.

“Reeve Regier is at meetings for eight hours twice a month and the mayor has two six-hour days, and what’s in between,” Coun. Nicholson said. “To stick that on one person is asking a lot.”

He suggested that compensation be discussed if the change occurs.

Coun. McLaughlin questioned why the issue was being discussed now, as it’s a Notice of Motion brought to the table.

“We’re wasting time,” he said.

Mr. Tremblay said prior to the time the 30 days of public consultation are up, he can check in with each member of council to see their preference for how council would select a deputy-mayor.

“When this discussion comes back to the table, we’ll have a sense where everybody’s at,” he said.

Two More Notices of Motion

Two councillors brought forward a notice of motion.

Coun. Olmstead asked staff to prepare a by-law, with consultation from the Ministry of Transportation, to ban engine brakes on Hwy. 17 within Cobden for an approximate distance of two kilometres.

Coun. Nicholson wants provincial and federal government involvement in “trying to sort that mess out” regarding the Westmeath boat launch.

Both of these issues will be discussed at upcoming meetings.

Connie Tabbert, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Eganville Leader

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