Another Matheson meeting cancelled amid councillor boycott

BLACK RIVER-MATHESON - Another meeting has been cancelled as a trio of Northern Ontario councillors continue to boycott them in hopes of triggering a byelection.

Tonight’s (April 23) Black River-Matheson council meeting was cancelled due to a lack of quorum. It's the fifth consecutive meeting that has been cancelled because there weren't enough members in attendance.

Mayor Doug Bender and councillors Chantal Rondeau and Allana Schmidt were the members in attendance. Township staffers James Lefebvre and James Mousseau were also in the meeting before it was called. They waited 16 minutes before it was officially cancelled.

Councillors Dave Dyment, Louise Gadoury and Steven Campsall did not attend. Coun. Keith Neal resigned in February, but there hasn't been a meeting held to accept his resignation or determine how he will be replaced.

SEE: Matheson councillors continue to boycott meetings

A CUPE Local 1490 rally also took place this afternoon and the township closed its office for the day. The rally was for the ongoing labour dispute between the union and Township of Black River-Matheson. Fourteen CUPE members were locked out by the township in October. The members went on strike when the township ended the lockout in January.

During tonight's meeting, Bender and Schmidt briefly discussed Kirkland Lake’s flooding. Schmidt noted “there are a lot of people affected by it.” Bender asked Mousseau if he had had a chance to look at the Black River via an aerial view.

“I'm just really interested to see if there's anything at all in that river that's impacting those rural roads up around Wavell,” Bender said. “It's really really strange because when I was out that way and looking at elevations on Google Earth, it seems weird why there's so much water at that end.”

Mousseau said he hadn’t looked at it yet. “I don't know what to say, it's just a weird water system,” he said.

In response to the three councillor’s recent absences, Bender said “the meeting agenda’s getting pretty long.”

“The one good thing about this is it frees up our Tuesday evenings, mind you, we're not getting the work done we're supposed to get done but you can only do what you can do,” he said.

“It’s unfortunate that we can't move any business forward but that's the nature of the beast."

Dyment, Gadoury and Campsall have said they are boycotting meetings and are trying to have the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing (MMAH) step in. The township has a seven-person council and at least four members must be present for the meeting to happen.

If a municipal council can’t hold a meeting for 60 days because of a lack of quorum, the Municipal Act says that the Minister of Municipal Affairs may declare all of the seats vacant, triggering a byelection. The 60 days have passed.

SEE: Three Matheson councillors boycotting meetings to try and force byelection RELATED: Scheme to force Matheson byelection 'just not going to happen' predicts CAO

The last time that council publicly met was Jan. 23. Its Feb. 13 meeting was cancelled due to a CUPE rally that day. Short of quorum, the Feb. 27, March 12, March 26 and April 9 meetings were cancelled. They did meet in-camera on Feb. 20.

Because it’s been months since the group last met, agenda items are stacking up.

Tonight’s meeting can be watched on the town’s YouTube channel here.

Marissa Lentz, Local Journalism Initiative,