By Chad Ingram
Published Nov. 29 2016
When a new county council takes office in two years’ time its makeup may be slightly different than the current council.
As she chaired her final meeting of the year as county warden on Nov. 23 Algonquin Highlands Reeve Carol Moffatt presented council with a number of options it might consider regarding the role of warden.
County council consists of the reeve and deputy-reeves of each of the four lower-tier townships of Haliburton County. Council decides who will be warden – the head of county council – from among its own membership each year and traditionally there has been some rotation between the four lower-tier townships.
During the next two years of the current term Moffatt requested that council consider making some changes to the role of warden and potentially the makeup of county council itself.
Moffatt said the political climate in the province has changed in recent years and that more and more rural communities have to fight for their fair share of resources.
“That fair share is dwindling on a number of fronts” she said. “Are our roles the right roles in terms of political activism? It’s our job to kind of kick at the darkness and not just accept the status quo.”
Since the job of county warden is more and more to liaise with other levels of government Moffatt asked colleagues to consider a number of suggested changes to the position.
One was the addition of a ninth position on county council that being a warden who is elected by the public and who serves for a full four-year term and whose concentration is on representing the county outside the community and dealing with other levels of government.
Another suggestion was lengthening the warden’s term to two years to achieve more consistency in dealing with projects and external representation and giving council the ability to extend that two-year term.
“Eliminate pre-arranged succession and the rotation of the position among the municipalities and instead develop a job description for the role wherein the best candidate will get the job regardless of their home municipality” Moffatt wrote in a report on the subject.
She also suggested discussing changing the title of warden to “mayor.”
Dysart et al Reeve Murray Fearrey was skeptical of the four-year term idea.
“If you get one of them who’s a dud you’re got him for four years” Fearrey said.
Her colleagues said they were willing to have those conversations.
“I have no fear of the conversations” Minden Hills Reeve Brent Devolin said. “I think it’s a healthy exercise.”
Devolin said it would reaffirm some traditions that have been around a long time while changing others that aren’t worth keeping.
Moffatt has made the decision not to host a warden’s banquet this year an invite-only gala-style event that has traditionally taken place near the end of each warden’s term. Moffatt told council the one word she hears about the warden’s banquet is “elitist” and suggested that if such an event was going to continue it should be something that is accessible for the entire community.
Algonquin Highlands Deputy-reeve Liz Danielsen noted the conversation would require investigating options under the Municipal Act. Under the ninth member model for example could one person run for a council seat in a lower tier and also the role of warden?
Moffatt made similar requests about reviewing the role of warden as well as the title during her first term as warden in 2013.