by Hilary Thomson
Council decided last Monday evening not to go the route of hiring a mediator to help facilitate the conversation between the Municipality and the Merrickville and District Chamber of Commerce.
The decision was made after a lengthy discussion, during which a few members of council made it clear that they were not happy with how the situation was handled by Mayor David Nash. Councillor Chuck MacInnis was very vocal in expressing his distaste with the fact that the Mayor held a “press conference” with the media and Chamber representative Karl Feige without notifying council when it would be held and what would be discussed. “I find this activity very insulting to council as a whole and insulting to me as a councillor,” he told Mayor Nash at the meeting.
Deputy Mayor Ann Barr was also on side with Councillor MacInnis, saying that the resolution the Mayor prepared to recommend hiring a mediator for the Chamber discussions was written in a way that seemed to shame council. “I am appalled at the wording of the resolution,” she said. Both asked for an apology from the Mayor, which he gave after both parties further explained their position.
Councillor Victor Suthren explained in the most detail why he believed a private meeting with a mediator was not the way to go. “I’m in favour of a conversation with concerned citizens,” he said. “We have mechanisms in place to allow the free flow of information.”
The mechanism he is referring to is the ability of any member of the public to present as a delegation to council at the beginning of a council meeting. Councillor Suthren said that granting a private meeting for one group of citizens would set a precedent when it came to other groups that may want the attention of council. “I urge that we reframe whatever we are doing, to use current mechanisms,” he said.
Deputy Mayor Barr was in agreement with Councillor Suthren, and said she would like to invite the Chamber to make a delegation to council and proceed from there. She also expressed concern with granting a more open form of discussion, as she felt it would be much more difficult to manage. “The proposed agenda they gave us in their request for a meeting was very loose,” she said.
In the end, Mayor Nash’s original resolution to organize a meeting with a mediator was defeated and a new resolution was passed to request the Chamber of Commerce make a presentation to council about their vision for a future relationship with the municipality. Council agreed that, if the ten minute allotment for delegations was deemed to be insufficient, council would grant an extension to the time limit. “There are good intentions on all sides,” Councillor Suthren noted at the end of the discussion. “Council does, however, have certain responsibilities and liabilities as a governing body. We help the Chamber of Commerce and ourselves to stay within legislation.”