CENTRAL MANITOULIN—Ted Taylor took his place on Central Manitoulin council following unanimous appointment by reeve and council on Thursday, October 13.
The vacant Ward 3 Sandfield seat and council’s intent to appoint a person to fill it sparked controversy throughout the municipality.
Council first carried a motion to declare the seat, held by Adam Smith before he resigned, empty. A second motion to fill the seat through appointment was carried 4-6, with Reeve Gerry Strong and Councillor Adam McDonald voting against the motion. The final motion appointed Mr. Taylor to the position and was unanimously carried.
After the meeting, Mr. McDonald explained why he voted against appointment, but then voted in favour of Mr. Taylor.
“A motion is stand-alone,” he said. “Once a motion is done, it’s done. The motion to go to public election was defeated and those days are done. Who we appoint to the position is a separate issue.”
Mr. McDonald said that once council has voted and made a decision, it’s his responsibility to the town to not “be a stick in the mud” and slow down the process.
“I wanted to make it clear that I don’t think it should be my choice (on who takes the seat),” he explained. “I took the time at the public meeting to speak to the people of Sandfield and Ted was their choice, so I was comfortable with the decision to appoint Ted. I think he’ll do an excellent job.”
Roughly 15 people attended to protest the decision, packing the council chambers in Mindemoya. One of them was Carole Middaugh, who is spearheading a petition to have the seat filled through a by-election. She opted to have one of the Sandfield candidates, Greg Young, speak for her to council.
“Were you listening to the ratepayers of Ward 3, Sandfield Township?” Mr. Young asked council, on behalf of Ms. Middaugh. “Did you see the show of hands or had you already decided…at earlier meetings, amongst yourselves?”
Limited to 10 minutes by existing bylaw, Ms. Middaugh and Mr. Young made their points quickly.
“The majority of Sandfield ratepayers remain firm in their demand to have their right of democratic due process recognized by this council and to have the ability to elect their representation,” Mr. Young said. “If Mr. Taylor is elected, let it be by the ratepayers.”
The delegation took the time to express that it harboured no animosity toward Mr. Taylor regarding council’s choice to appoint him to council.
“We feel that deep down Ted would also agree with democratic due process,” Mr. Young stated, reading from Ms. Middaugh’s notes.
The two also took the time to announce that a Ward 3 Sandfield Township Ratepayers’ Association was in the process of forming and elections for its executive would soon be underway.
“We are forming a ratepayers’ association so we can be heard on decisions in the future,” Ms. Middaugh said, though Mr. Young. “I have talked to many ratepayers since the meeting and I also feel that after (the appointment), we have to do something to be heard.”
Mr. McDonald said he was cautiously optimistic about the idea of a ratepayers’ association.
“The more people who come and listen and have meaningful discussion, the more our town will progress,” he said. “If they come with a negative attitude, though, they’ll only slow things down.”
Mr. McDonald said he was concerned the association would create an ‘us against them’ mentality in those who are interested in town politics.
“We need to get away from this ‘me first’ way of thinking,” he said, explaining that councillors are responsible to the entire town, not just the specific wards of Sandfield, Campbell and Carnarvon.
“I was elected in Carnarvon,” Mr. McDonald said, “but I listened to the people of Sandfield and represented their desire for a by-election through my vote. It doesn’t matter that I was elected in Carnarvon.”
Mr. Taylor, who was sworn in by town CAO and clerk Ruth Frawley at the Thursday meeting, will now be on council for the remaining three years of the term.
“We have to move on,” Mr. McDonald said. “I’m fully behind Ted. There’ll be other controversies during the next three years and we’ll get through those, too.”