Former Musgrave Harbour councillor says he'll appeal town's decision to remove him from office

·3 min read
Grant Abbott, a former town councillor of Musgrave Harbour, says he's appealing the town's decision to remove him from his seat.  (Submitted by Grant Abbott - image credit)
Grant Abbott, a former town councillor of Musgrave Harbour, says he's appealing the town's decision to remove him from his seat. (Submitted by Grant Abbott - image credit)
Submitted by Grant Abbott
Submitted by Grant Abbott

A former town councillor removed for missing too many meetings says he plans to appeal his ouster to Newfoundland and Labrador Supreme Court.

It's the latest chapter in a long fight between Grant Abbott and his former fellow councillors, with Abbott accusing the town of wanting to force him out of office for refusing to be vaccinated against COVID-19.

"I kind of expected it," Abbott told CBC News on Monday.

"But I was surprised, to a certain extent, because there's so much things going on in terms of lawyers and investigations and that kind of thing."

In a letter to Abbott April 29, which he forwarded to CBC News, the town said the vacancy is in accordance with Section 206 of the Municipalities Act, which states the office of a councillor becomes vacant when he or she does not attend regular public meetings of the council for three successive months.

In December, the town enacted a policy that councillors must be vaccinated to attend council meetings. In late January the town enacted another policy that says councillors may attend virtual meetings only if they're away for work or if they have child-care issues. Councillors may also attend virtually for medical reasons, and Abbott claims he is unvaccinated on the advice of his doctor, but he has not attended virtual meetings either, and in late April council vacated his seat.

Abbott said he plans to appeal the town's decision.

"I've got an application to the Supreme Court for an appeal that I'll file shortly," he said.

"I'm not sure exactly what the process would be but I should be back within a month or two as far as I can tell."

In March two other councillors and the town's manager resigned from their positions, citing stress and turmoil as the reasons.

Submitted by Grant Abbott
Submitted by Grant Abbott

"I feel because of this situation, my work production here and the things I'm doing here [are] not getting done," then town manager Cassandra Mouland said at the time. "I also feel like the behaviour and the obsession that Coun. Abbott has with the town, and the things that he's doing with the town won't stop until I leave, so I feel like I'm being pushed out to resign."

In late April the RCMP opened an investigation after Abbott found a bullet hole in a window of his home. Abbott said at the time he believes the shooting and his struggles with town council are connected.

Playing by the rules

CBC News asked for an interview with Municipal Affairs Minister Krista Lynn Howell, but the department said that was "not possible."

The department said Abbott can appeal to the Supreme Court but the department would have no role in the process.  The department also said the Town of Musgrave Harbour has been following the rules.

The Municipalities Act says communities may allow a councillor to participate in meetings electronically as long as it enables the councillor to listen to the proceedings and to be heard, but the rule is "discretionary in nature."

"The provision was designed for councillors who are temporarily away for things like work, school or business. While it is not a requirement in the legislation, the department has recommended to municipalities that if they wish to have councillors attend electronically, they should develop a policy," reads the department's statement.

"Department officials were in contact with both the town and the councillor of Musgrave Harbour on this matter. The decision still rests with council as to whether they would accommodate an individual and how they wish to address such matters, which is in accordance with Section 24 (2.1) of the act."

Musgrave Harbour's town clerk told CBC News council members have spoken on the matter before and are "not interested" in being interviewed.

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