Well, that must be a record. After campaigning all summer, getting elected in October, sworn in as a Councillor on December 2, attending just two regular Council meetings and two of the Committee of the Whole, Craig McCormick has resigned his seat on Council. There is, of course, speculation about why he resigned, and the official notification simply states that it was for “personal reasons”.
There has not, as yet, been any response to requests for further details from the ex-Councillor, but it is known that his relationship with his fellow members of Council have been strained, to say the least, almost from the time they were sworn in. His very public, and unprecedented, complaints about not being appointed to the Police Services Board indicated a very angry attitude to his colleagues, in spite of the fact that there were legal reasons why he could not have that position.
His supporters must be quite disappointed that their votes have been wasted so early in the mandate of this Council, and they no doubt hope that there is no other crisis or issue behind his resignation than what seems to be the case. It is unfortunate that this new Council is dealing with a situation where transparency is lacking.
Deputy Mayor McManaman added comments to the official press release announcing the resignation, expressing Council’s appreciation for the “considerable efforts that Mr. McCormick made to fulfill his responsibilities”. Quite what those efforts might be, given that most of his time in office was spent during the Christmas and New Year break, is hard to know, and it is unlikely that the remarks were more than the usual polite words used in such circumstances.
The new Council’s honeymoon is now definitely over, and we wish the new Councillor, Kristin Strackerjan, every good wish in taking over the position left vacant so suddenly. Given the desire of her new fellows to work as a team, etc., she may have a great deal of support in finding her feet. The rest of Council may be, themselves, just now getting used to their responsibilities and are getting ready to establish the new Committees of Council for the next four years. Mayor Peckford has already met with Ontario Minister of Tourism, Culture and Sport “to discuss strategic investments & policy changes in regards to promoting tourism in rural & eastern Ontario”, and will be busy stickhandling her way around the expectations that were raised during the election about an indoor swimming pool in the municipality.
Council have to deal with many more pressing issues than that, however, including the provision of adequate water supplies in a growing population in Kemptville, the future use of the Court House on Water Street, and what to do with that and other heritage buildings owned by the Municipality (see Tricia Habberjam’s article in this issue).
By the time you read this, Council will have returned from the ROMA Conference in Toronto. ROMA, the Rural Ontario Municipal Association, where they will have heard speeches from Doug Ford and Steve Clark. No doubt this will inspire and motivate them on their return to work. But there are other presentations at ROMA that may prove more productive even than those. These are dealt with in an article elsewhere in this issue.
But Craig McCormick’s sudden resignation will have come as a wake-up call to Council: the next four years will require careful handling. Even a brief glance at social media sites will show that there are people in our community who are not at all enamoured by the new team, and others who expect this neophyte group to go on a spending spree, or to follow policies that will be disastrous for North Grenville. A typical gloomy comment on Craig McCormick’s resignation stated bluntly: “What a shame we lose an honest member of council”. What does that say about the poster’s view of the remaining members?
The atmosphere which seems to exist in this social media age really demands far more transparency than ever before when it comes to governments at all levels, and how they communicate with the public. This Council has committed itself to a greater transparency, more extensive consultation and involvement with the residents, and a greater role in the development of policy options by the public, so that Council may make informed decisions on our shared future based on a more complete understanding of the wishes and vision of the people of North Grenville.
I know I can be somewhat sceptical of political promises and approaches, but I believe we need to put aside cynicism (but not a watchful eye) and give Council and the people of North Grenville a chance to make things work as we would want them to. Change is difficult, and it demands that everyone commits to it and be willing to spend time and effort to be involved, actively or passively, to bring about that change. The decks have been cleared, and the way ahead is open.