West Nipissing council completes itself, despite itself

·3 min read

Last night, West Nipissing council appointed Normand Roberge to fill the eighth councillor position. With this appointment, council is now complete, and the long-vacant Ward 7 representing Verner is now filled.

Come July, that seat would have been empty for two years, vacant since the resignation of Jeremy Seguin. Since his departure, council members were deadlocked as to how to find a replacement. Some wanted a general election, others opted to appoint, but nothing was settled, and the seat remained empty for lack of council decision.

See: Seguin resigns from 'toxic and dysfunctional' council

At last night’s meeting, it took about an hour to iron out the process of how the vote would carry out, but after that was cleared, council members cast their ballots. There were six candidates, and each council member was asked to write their first choice upon a sheet of paper and reveal that name to the camera—many were attending via video—and for those in chamber, to reveal their choices to the clerk and others in attendance.

To become appointed, a candidate needed to receive five votes of the eight available. Councillors Chris Fisher, Roland Larabie, Leo Malette and Dan Roveda voted for Roberge. Four votes, one shy of a round one victory.

Councillors Yvon Duhaime, Denis Senecal, Lise Senecal, and Mayor Joanne Savage cast their votes for candidate Fern Pellerin. Four votes. Council was deadlocked again.

“We are at a four-four tie,” the clerk stated. She then proceeded to write the name from each vote on a separate piece of paper, folded those in half, and placed them all into a box. “I will then ask the treasurer to pull one” of the pieces from the box, and whichever name appeared when the paper opened, was destined to become the new councillor.

Normand Roberge was the name.

Roberge spoke to council on June 9th, when all candidates had a chance to answer some questions from council as to why they wanted to fill the role. That evening Roberge explained how he has much experience working and volunteering within the community, and “was on West Nipissing council for 13 years.”

See: Former councillor eyes vacant seat — says he is ready, willing and able to serve community

He remained involved “in numerous committees,” and is a member of the Knights of Columbus and the Lions Club. “I’ve always supported the younger generations” through his volunteering and has done a lot to raise money for playgrounds, and help youth groups. Roberge mentioned it’s important “to support the community and help the neighbours if they’re having difficulties.”

West Nipissing council has been known to become deadlocked on decisions, so much so that Nigel Bellchamber addressed this in one of his questions to candidates, asking them to explain how they would address a council issue without automatically voting on one side for every vote.

“When you have a situation it’s not always black and white,” Roberge said. “When you have a silver dollar, you also have the edge, and quite often the answer lies on the edge and not on the face or the tail,” he continued.

“And that’s what you have to look for sometimes, that fine line to find some compromise.”

Earlier this year, the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing (MMAH) became involved and offered to West Nipissing council a very firm request to fill that empty seat and gave them until the end of June to do so. To help the process, the Ministry appointed a facilitator—Nigel Bellchamber—to help ensure the Minister’s request was carried out. Kathy Horgan, a representative of the MMAH, has also been attending council’s recent meetings.

See: Minister declares West Nipissing council shall fill empty seat

David Briggs is a Local Journalism Initiative reporter who works out of BayToday, a publication of Village Media. The Local Journalism Initiative is funded by the Government of Canada.

David Briggs, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, BayToday.ca

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