West Nipissing councillors have called a truce in an ongoing battle between two warring factions.
Last night, they made peace and proceeded to work their way through the entire evening’s agenda, something they have had trouble with in the past.
It was a watershed moment for a council known lately for its infighting and arguing, two traits that have not gone unnoticed by their constituents. Two traits that were not appreciated by those who voted those councillors into their seats.
The public knew a meeting was scheduled for Tuesday evening, and anticipation ran high. Would councilors get through their meeting?
Their last attempt at a special meeting was thwarted by a lack of quorum. The meeting before that ended abruptly, and the one before that lasted about 15 minutes before falling apart.
The trouble began during a September 7 meeting. Some councillors wanted another member to apologize for contravening the municipality’s code of conduct. Since that meeting, council has yet to make its way through a full agenda.
The work of the municipality was being neglected.
Little wonder that people were curious as to the outcome of yesterday’s meeting.
Would council reunite for one last tour before the next election? Will they put aside differences to accomplish the work of the municipality?
At 6:30, council members turned on their cameras to commence a Zoom meeting. Mayor Joanne Savage read a land acknowledgement, and all went well.
Mayor Savage then asked, “if there is any reconsideration for any apologies,” a touchy subject these days at council.
“That would be more than welcome,” she said, adding that “this would be the opportunity” to apologize.
Mayor Savage then carried on with the agenda, moving on to conflicts involving pecuniary interests. Nobody had any.
Soon after, council addressed the elephant in the room.
“It’s unfortunate what’s happened since September 7,” Councillor Yvon Duhaime said. “And we’ve come to realize that business has to move on. And I hope that in the coming months we’ll maintain a level of decency and respectful manners,” he said, “so we can continue working for the benefit of the people.”
“God bless you all,” he added, “and I hope we can succeed at having a great meeting tonight and I wish you all well.”
Councillor Dan Roveda agreed. “We have to move forward and quit acting like children around this table,” he said.
“The public has been calling, and the public demands this,” he emphasized.
The genial tone developing around the table took a slight turn when councillor Denis Senecal expressed his disappointment toward those council members who did not apologize.
“They are not willing to apologize for their own actions,” he said, “and I think the residents will hold them accountable at the next election.”
“It’s shameful they would act this way,” he added before councillor Dan Roveda interjected with an emphatic “point of order.”
“That has nothing to do with the meeting right now,” he emphasized. “You asked us whether we wanted to apologize, we know for a fact that the three who left the meeting did not have to apologize.”
He added that “Mr. Senecal is going above and beyond the agenda” with his talk of apologies.
“Let’s move forward,” he reassured council and home viewers concerned this long-awaited council peace may be shorter-lived than imagined.
“This grandstanding is not good for the public of West Nipissing, and I think that they want us to move forward.”
Mayor Savage reminded Roveda that “everybody has been expressing an opinion” at the table, and his point of order that Senecal was going above and beyond the agenda was not accepted.
Roveda mentioned he was “appealing” her decision, and the tension ratcheted up another notch.
After Roveda asked the mayor “if you’re going to bully me again?” the hope of a long-lasting council truce suddenly seemed more distant on the horizon.
Senecal’s issue “was not on the agenda” Roveda emphasized, “and we should be moving forward. Period.”
The mayor returned the floor to Senecal who hoped “Mr. Roveda has gotten the message clear from the residents and that he will maybe change his attitude.”
The resolution to accept the agenda was then carried, and the business of the municipality was free to continue. With council achieving peace and reuniting for the sake of the constituents, a collective sigh of relief from residents echoed through the region.West Nipissing council indicated it is back and ready to move forward.