CENTRE WELLINGTON – Centre Wellington mayor Kelly Linton’s changes to councillor committee appointments has been approved, but not without a fight from some on council.
At Monday’s council meeting, Linton presented a report recommending: replacing himself with coun. Neil Dunsmore on the Fergus BIA; coun. Steven VanLeeuwen with coun. Kirk McElwain on Heritage Centre Wellington; and coun. Bob Foster with VanLeeuwen on the Healthy Growth Advisory Committee (HGAC).
Linton said it is good practice to have a Fergus based councillor on the BIA and the heritage committee could benefit from McElwain’s experience.
The focus turned to the HGAC where Linton said they are starting to focus on an attainable housing strategy but Foster has “dominated the discussion on items not on the agenda.”
“It’s not the role of a councillor to direct or dominate the discussion and that’s what Foster has been doing over the past three months,” Linton repeatedly said.
“Increasing the supply of attainable housing is way too important an issue for this community to have a councillor block the progress by continuing to bring up items that are outside the agenda.”
Foster countered he is simply trying to make sure the planning act is followed particularly in regards to heritage matters.
“I firmly believe in upholding the law ... if that is disruptive then so be it,” Foster said. “Attainable housing is a very important goal, I do support finding solutions but I do not believe we can use attainable housing to trump heritage preservation.”
McElwain said he was happy to be considered to be back on an advisory committee but was concerned over the precedent this is setting noting parallels to the recent situation with the deputy mayor.
“Are we setting a precedent here that says councillors have to follow the company line?” McElwain asked.
Coun. Ian MacRae, who also sits on the HGAC, said he too has heard from committee members who find Foster delays their primary focus.
Speaking frankly, MacRae said “the committee needs to start showing some results.”
The recommendation passed by a vote of 4-3 with Foster, Kitras and McElwain voting against.
In a phone call after the meeting, Foster said he has heard from many constituents who express great concern over the loss of heritage in the area. He noted at the meeting a majority of the constituents in his ward live in a Fergus heritage area.
“I’ve raised the importance of heritage conservation through the planning act and I’ve been thrown off the committee because of it,” Foster said.
In an email, Linton stressed this decision was made because Foster was not understanding his role as a councillor on the committee.
“Councillors on our advisory committees are there to play a liaison role with council to inform us about the discussions that took place at the committee level,” Linton said.
Linton further added Foster was alienating citizen volunteer members with his conduct.
“If councillor Foster remained on this committee, we would lose citizen volunteers,” Linton said.
“No one wants to volunteer their time to listen to one person go on and on about things that are not even on our agenda. Achieving more attainable housing is too important an issue to have our momentum hijacked by one councillor who doesn’t understand his role.”
Foster said he will continue to fight for heritage conservation and sees it as a defining election issue going forward.
Keegan Kozolanka, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, GuelphToday.com