Calling for change to Municipalities Act
One of Slaney’s complaints against the act is that there is nothing within the act that holds elected officials accountable for their actions.
“In the House of Assembly they can say, you are out of our party until we figure out what’s going on here. We can’t do that here,” Slaney said. “I think if government had a mechanism, if the act held people responsible, if there was a code of ethics that you had to follow… there’s no consequence for not following the act. You get a letter that says don’t do this again.
“An elected official is not going to get removed unless you actually see someone taking money out of the coffers and putting it in their pocket. There is also no way to enforce anything in the Municipalities Act.”
Slaney believes the municipal leaders should have access to an impartial complaints investigator.
“There has to be some type of independent body not attached to government,” Slaney commented, “with government acting as the bridge for volunteers who are running local governments, who are also working, who are also raising families, who are also living in the communities.
“The process should be professional, confidential and safe. We need support. We’re volunteers in the community and we’re not experts. We didn’t have the expertise on how to conduct the investigations and what to do. It put a lot of pressure on staff, a lot of pressure on council, it put a lot of pressure on council’s families and it put a lot of pressure on the community.”
An online source to voice suggestions for changing the Municipalities Act was also too public a process according to Slaney.
“At one point I thought I was going to put in some suggestions online,” Slaney said, “and the only mechanism I saw for making those suggestions would be writing within the forum and your suggestions were public. That wasn’t safe or comfortable.”
Slaney said that overall, the Department of Municipal Affairs did not help Marystown’s council issues.
“We asked many times for government to mediate and they came out and watched meetings, but at the end of the day they did nothing,” she said.
Despite Slaney’s negative council experience, she decided to run for mayor in 2017.
“I wasn’t going to run for reelection whatsoever,” Slaney explained. “Then my youngest daughter, it’s just amazing how they can put it into perspective.
“She said, ‘You know I don’t want to see you experience what you did for another four years; I don’t want to see you go through that again. So why don’t you run for mayor, because then you’re either in or you’re out and you may not have the same experience.’
“So I felt that I owed it not only as a mother but as a woman in politics to say ‘Listen, this needs to change and I’m giving you an option.’ If you want it to change, here it is. I’ve tried and I didn’t give up, I didn’t quit and my daughters were actually excited when I lost. They told me how proud they were of me and how strong I was and that meant more than any election ever could.”
Slaney hopes that in speaking up, she can help make these types of situations easier for other women who choose to explore politics.
“We’re trying to encourage women to become more involved in their communities, politics and government,” Slaney said. “If you’re hearing these stories and there’s no solution to these stories, why are you going to go sit at a table? How are people going to feel safe, if there isn’t an independent body that they can go report to?”
The Southern Gazette contacted the Department of Municipal Affairs but did not receive a response by the print deadline.