Central councillor quits, says she feels debate too ward-focussed, doesn’t benefit whole township

Linda Farquhar

CENTRAL MANITOULIN—The fallout from the debate over the fate of the Mindemoya Old School and proposals to build a new recreation centre to replace the two older arenas in the Central Manitoulin communities of Mindemoya and Providence Bay has now included the resignation of one of the municipal councillors.

Linda Farquhar has tendered her resignation from council citing the stress and challenges of finding compromises with some of the new council. Ms. Farquhar served on the previous term of council, but said that she found the atmosphere this year very different.

“The first four years were very satisfying,” she said, but with “a couple of new councillors the mood has shifted.”

Ms. Farquhar said that she feels that councillors are now more focussed on their individual wards than in working for the betterment of the municipality as a whole. “They work for their own wards all the time,” she said. “Rather than the good of the whole town.”

While the decision to not extend the Old School Repurposing Committee’s mandate for another five years to enable them to find a solution for the historic building that does not include tearing it down acted as a catalyst for her decision, Ms. Farquhar made it clear that decision was not the only factor contributing to her decision.

“There is nothing in our community for seniors,” she said, adding that while council is willing to have other community groups, such as local churches, step up to provide activities, the council itself consistently refuses to put any skin in the game.

Suggestions have been made in the past that the municipality should move to electing councillors “at large” without a specific ward or geographic constituency, a suggestion Ms. Farquhar has sympathy for. “I think that would help,” she said. “That way people would be more inclined to look out for what would be best for everybody.”

She also looked to the number of municipalities on Manitoulin as a concern. “This little Island with a small population has nine municipalities with I don’t know how many councillors,” she said.

Ms. Farquhar said that she is very concerned about the proposal to build a multi-use recreation centre as well. “What about the poor taxpayers who are going to be saddled with an enormous bill to pay for it?” she asked. “We are already looking at a 44 percent increase in our garbage collection costs.” The Blind River company that is currently hauling the Central Manitoulin commercial waste (over 60 percent of the municipality’s waste) to a private landfill has been purchased by US interests and Ms. Farquhar said she was concerned about what the future holds for those costs.

Central Manitoulin Mayor Richard Stephens said he did not agree with Ms. Farquhar’s assessment of council this term.

“We were sorry to get the news,” he said of Ms. Farquhar’s resignation. “It was not entirely unexpected. There have been some unhappy episodes over the last little while. But I don’t see a them and us attitude.” But Mayor Stephens added that Ms. Farquhar was not the only one to have made that observation.

“I don’t see anybody saying we are going to do this because this is where I am living,” said Mayor Stephens. “All of our councillors work for the betterment of the community. It’s nice when you have a congenial council.”

But he noted that a council where everyone agrees about everything “is not always the best. I don’t want to be shepherding a bunch of sheep.”

As for next steps, council will be deliberating at their next office and administration committee meeting to plot a way forward.

“As you know we really have two choices, to hold a by-election or to appoint someone,” he said. The matter is somewhat complicated in that the council already had to appoint someone for that ward when not enough candidates put their names forward.

“In that case we had to appoint the second candidate for that ward,” he said. “If we do that again, both councillors for that ward will be appointed.”