Councils reject warden proposal
OWEN SOUND — While not official yet, a proposal to allow electors to choose Grey County’s warden in a county- wide vote starting next year is dead in the water.
Six municipal councils including Owen Sound, Meaford and the Blue Mountains have already voted against the change, which requires triple- majority approval to be implemented.
Two councils are to vote on the proposal this week.
“Obviously with that many lower- tiers not supporting it, it’s obviously not going to make the cut,” Warden Al Barfoot said last week in an interview.
Triple- majority approval means that most lower- tier municipalities — in Grey County’s case that means five of the nine municipal councils — must support the change.
In addition, the supporting municipalities must represent a majority of Grey County vot- ers. The third requirement is for a majority of Grey County councillors to vote in favour of the change.
Grey County’s system currently has county councillors voting each December for who will serve as warden for the following year.
This summer, council supported a motion by Blue Mountains Mayor John McKean to consider moving to a direct election of the warden starting with the 2018 municipal election. The change would also mean that the warden’s term would increase from one to four years and the size of county council — which is made up of lower- tier mayors and deputy mayors – would increase from 18 to 19 members.
McKean, at the time, said he felt it should be voters and not local politicians that choose the warden.
In his original notice of motion, he also said electing a warden at large would enable the head of council “to focus on the county’s needs and those of the broader electorate” and added that the workload of being a member of both a local council and county council “may limit the individuals willing to stand for election of warden.”
The Municipal Act requires any changes to the election process be complete by Dec. 31 of the prior year, meaning council had about five months to secure triple- majority support, provide public notice, hold a public meeting and pass the official bylaw in order for the change to take effect for 2018.
County council directed staff on Sept. 14 to seek responses from the local municipalities on whether or not they support the voting change for warden. The county asked that all responses be in by Oct. 16 so a staff report could be presented to county council on Oct. 26.
Grey County deputy clerk Heather Morrison said the county had already received responses as of Tuesday from Georgian Bluffs, Southgate and West Grey. All three municipalities voted against the change for 2018.
Grey Highlands Mayor Paul McQueen said his council unanimously supported the direct election of warden motion Monday night.
“I think they’re open to progressive and new ways of looking at ways we’re governed,” he said.
Hanover is to consider the change at its Oct. 2 meeting, while Chatsworth is to vote on the proposal Oct. 4.
Barfoot, McKean and Meaford Mayor Barb Clumpus, when contacted by The Sun Times Tuesday, each said that their councils felt they needed more time to weigh the pros and cons, consult with their ratepayers and consider all of the implications of the change before approving it.
Clumpus said her council thinks the change should be discussed further during the next term of county council.
“There was just too short a time frame to get all of the pieces in place – the community engagement, understanding the implications. This is a huge issue and not one that is understood at the lower- tier level. To make an informed decision on whether this is the right way to go would require a lot more thought and time to consider this,” she said.