Midland passed 'lame duck council' provisions during a recent regular meeting, with some on council looking to explain what that means to the average resident.
Municipal and school board elections are scheduled for October 24 across the province and, as of the time of this article, two Midland councillors have announced their candidacy for the position of town mayor: Bill Gordon and Jonathan Main.
With elections coming up, councils are signing into delegation of authority bylaws which would provide the Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) and clerk the means to handle some aspects of municipal affairs under certain conditions.
But what a “lame duck” scenario is, is something that Deputy Mayor Mike Ross asked town clerk Sheri Edgar to describe.
“I know quite a few of the public have asked, and maybe a quick explanation on how that works so people are aware of how our council (operates),” Ross inquired.
Replied Edgar, “In Midland’s case, if less than seven members of the nine-member council will be returning, the lame duck clause is triggered.”
“From nomination day through to the current term of council, so August 19 to November 14, 2002; or from final voting day, so October 24 to the start of the new term of council which would be November 14, 2022 – at each point, we will advise council if they are in a lame duck situation,” Edgar explained.
Gordon nudged for a deeper explanation from either Edgar or from CAO David Denault about the two moments ahead when the lame duck clause could be enacted.
“What would be the impact of us being in a lame duck situation? What would we stop being able to do? What would we still be able to do?” asked Gordon. “If we were to find ourselves in it, or when we are, what that actually means to the material business of this board.”
Edgar responded that under section 275 of the Municipal Act, there are four acts which are restricted within a lame duck period.
“The appointment or removal from office of any officer of the municipality; the hiring or dismissal of any employee of the municipality; the disposition of any real or personal property of the municipality which has a value exceeding $50,000 at the time of disposal; and making any expenditures or incurring any other liability which exceeds $50,000,” said Edgar.
She noted exceptions which could be applied to the latter two restrictions involving the $50,000 amounts. “They don’t apply if the disposition or liability was included in the most recent budget adopted by council before nomination day in the elections.
“So if it was adopted by council, you can go ahead and make the decision,” Edgar added. “It’s any new items coming forward in that amount (that) are restricted.”
Council seemed appeased at the explanations and moved on with the regular meeting.
As for the historical term "lame duck," its origin in politics is rooted from a 1761 bit of stock exchange slang for ‘defaulter’, according to the Online Etymology Dictionary. Thomas Love Peacock was quoted in 1861: “A lame duck is a man who cannot pay his differences, and is said to waddle off.”
The lame duck council provisions report is available in the council agenda on the Town of Midland website.
Council meetings are held every third Wednesday, and can be attended virtually through Zoom by contacting the clerk’s department of Midland town hall for a link to the meeting.
Council meetings can also be viewed on Rogers TV cable channel 53, or through the livestream on the Rogers TV website. Archives of council meetings are available through Rogers TV and on the Town of Midland’s YouTube channel.
Derek Howard, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, MidlandToday.ca