West Nipissing council divided, meeting cancelled

Joanne Savage

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Stu Campaigne, Local Journalism Initiative

West Nipissing council has scrapped its meeting Tuesday because a consensus could not be reached on where and how to hold it.

Council was to discuss how to proceed with filling the seat vacated by former Ward 7 representative Jeremy Seguin. This, after failing to reach a consensus on July 21 on whether to appoint the runner-up from the 2018 election, accept applications for the seat, or hold a by-election.

That matter and others originally scheduled to be dealt with Tuesday will now be pushed back to Sept. 1.

“Efforts to change the conduct of our meetings in a different manner was not achieved and the meeting for Aug. 11 is cancelled,” Mayor Joanne Savage writes. “The quorum wasn’t achieved. Some council members wish to proceed strictly by telephone and some council members preferred reconvening in person.”

Meetings have been held remotely since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, with several streamed and made available to the public since March. Those meetings have been difficult to follow as councillors spread across the municipality deal with challenges relating to varying internet speeds and telephone connections.

Savage is encouraging her fellow council members to meet in person, or at the very least, to participate via Zoom if unable to attend for health and safety reasons.

“We no longer should have to deal with sound problems, physical absences or not seeing each other since March 2020,” offers Savage. “Since the last meeting of council, I have received several complaints regarding sound and also received enquiries of when council will reconvene in person.

“Meetings, as they are presently being conducted, are not working and the objective was for us all to see each other after several months, whether in person or on a screen.”

Savage advises the municipality’s planning board was successful in reconvening for the first time since March on July 20 in council chambers. She says five of the seven members, plus the municipal planner, attended in person and social distancing was not a problem.

“The council chamber still had ample space remaining to accommodate more people without compromising social distancing,” says Savage.

“In the interim, the CAO will be exploring options and hopefully assist council with solutions for our next meeting,” she concluded .

Stu Campaigne is a Local Journalism Initiative reporter who works out of BayToday.ca. The Local Journalism Initiative is funded by the Government of Canada

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