Harassment complaints within town council prompt province to postpone Kippens election

·2 min read
Kippens, on Newfoundland's west coast, has had its municipal election deferred while the provincial government investigates the complaints.  (Colleen Connors/CBC - image credit)
Kippens, on Newfoundland's west coast, has had its municipal election deferred while the provincial government investigates the complaints. (Colleen Connors/CBC - image credit)

If you drive along the residential streets of Kippens, a town of about 2,000 on the west coast of Newfoundland, the driveways and front lawns this week remain strikingly bare.

Unlike all other municipalities across the province — which tally votes for their municipal governments on Tuesday — in Kippens, there are no election signs to be found.

That's because the Department of Municipal and Provincial Affairs deferred the election in Kippens until Nov. 30, giving government officials two months to investigate harassment complaints within the town council.

The postponement will allow the department to "conclude its special inspection," which the department says is in its final stages, according to a statement emailed to CBC.

Delaying the election will "allow the process to be concluded in a timely manner with participation from all parties," it said.

Issues within council

The department isn't saying specifically who's harassing whom, but at least one person who plans to run when campaigning begins says she knows what's going on here.

Resident Michelle MacIsaac says there are major issues within the entire council — including harassment, bullying and conflicts of interest — issues that she says drove her to put her name forward and run for council herself.

Colleen Conors/CBC
Colleen Conors/CBC



"We thought maybe in the election we will let the town's residents speak, and now we have been … postponed," MacIsaac said.

MacIssac is disappointed by the delay but hopes the department digs thoroughly into the conflicts she's hearing about.

She also hopes the next council looks a lot different from the current one.

"I was offended and outraged and I still am," she said.

"But now I'm thinking that extra two months will give more people the time, a chance to put their name in and run."

Code of conduct

Following these harassment complaints, the Department of Municipal and Provincial Affairs is developing legislation that will require all municipalities to establish a code of conduct for councillors and employees that will help municipalities identify and address respectful workplace issues.

Colleen Connors/CBC
Colleen Connors/CBC



As the governments looks into these harassment complaints, the current town council will continue to conduct its regular duties.

CBC asked Mayor Debbie Brake-Patten for comment, but she did not respond.

Another town near Kippens has also had to postpone its municipal election. In St. George's, 31 kilometres from Kippens, the town manager and acting returning officer Jocelyn Butt made an error and misinterpreted criteria for a nomination.

The Town of St. George's asked the Department of Municipal and Provincial Affairs to defer the election. A new election date has not yet been set.

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