Councillor offended with how issue handled at recent meeting
A Cape Breton Regional Municipality councillor is criticizing the handling of a recent council meeting where another member’s qualifications to sit on an external committee were questioned and is calling for an apology.
At the outset of Thursday’s budget session, Dist. 11 Coun. Kendra Coombes introduced a point of privilege regarding the exchange that occurred in the council chamber last month when the nomination of Dist. 8 Coun. Amanda McDougall to the regional solid waste committee was debated, versus a more senior member of councillor who previously sat on the committee but who wasn’t nominated for the position.
“During the council meeting, fellow councillors used sexist, inappropriate, and unprofessional language,” Coombes said. “Although the discussion centered around Coun. McDougall, I felt personally insulted and was affected by the situation.”
In particular, Coombes raised Mayor Cecil Clarke’s handling of the situation as he chaired the meeting, saying she believed he “failed to intervene to ensure decorum and parliamentary behavior” was upheld.
She added she believes that McDougall, Dist. 2 Coun. Earlene MacMullin and herself, as well as staff and the citizens of the CBRM are owed an apology.
As Coombes raised the issue as a point of privilege, Clarke will report back to council with a written response.
The incident sparked a great deal of public commentary.
“I’ve had conversations with my various colleagues … there’s a lot of good coming out of what happened last time. I feel like communication has opened up a little bit,” McDougall told reporters after the meeting, saying she preferred to focus on how to move ahead.
“It’s honestly been emotionally exhausting as well, so it’s something that you kind of want to move past from, keep working, I mean, these are my colleagues for the next four years, I know they’ve been hounded quite severely,” she said.
The incident also demonstrated the power of social media, McDougall said.
“It took me completely offguard, but the conversation have kept going from there, people have reached out as far as Alberta, Ontario, ladies who are interested in politics, who are in politics themselves, it’s been incredible for sharing in that network of support and empowering one another,” she said.
McDougall acknowledged it was difficult to sit through the meeting “and have people cut you down,” when she was quite confident in her ability to sit on the committee.
Coombes said, however, in her view the issue hasn’t been revisited by any of the councillors involved.
“It was never addressed to us, no one’s ever said … not even, ‘I’m sorry this happened,’ not even that lip service, there were no apologies ever made, no acknowledgement of what occurred,” she said.
Coombes said she wants to see the matter resolved by council.
“It’s hard to sit there in a room and have that hang over your head and every time I go out to the grocery store, downtown, for a walk, people call me up for one issue and they say, ‘By the way, what happened?’ I get on social media and it’s still there,” she said.
A session has been set up for councillors on parliamentary procedures to take place next week, but Coombes said she would like to see more extensive diversity and sensitivity training take place.