‘Dy­namic ar­eas need dy­namic lead­ers’

West Hants war­den’s bid to switch over to may­oral sys­tem re­jected by coun­cil

Valley Journal Advertiser - - NEWS - BY CA­ROLE MOR­RIS-UNDERHILL HANTSJOURNAL.CA ca­role.mor­ris-underhill@hantsjournal.ca

West Hants res­i­dents won’t be elect­ing a mayor any­time soon.

Mu­nic­i­pal coun­cil­lors have been dis­cussing the idea of mak­ing the switch from a war­den to a mayor sys­tem since the fall 2016 elec­tion.

War­den Abra­ham Ze­bian spoke pas­sion­ately about want­ing to make the change dur­ing West Hants coun­cil’s March 13 meet­ing.

“Dy­namic ar­eas need dy­namic lead­ers. Lead­ers rep­re­sent the peo­ple, rather than a coun­cil. Lead­ers who will share their opin­ions and de­fend what is right... rather than worry they may have of­fended some coun­cil­lors who hold the power to re­move them,” Ze­bian said as he ex­plained to fel­low coun­cil­lors why he thought the po­lit­i­cal sys­tem shift was the right way to go.

One of the main dif­fer­ences be­tween may­ors and war­dens is that may­ors are elected by the pub­lic at the same time as coun­cil­lors while the po­si­tion of the war­den is de­cided by coun­cil­lors fol­low­ing the elec­tion.

“In this time of aus­ter­ity and anti-pol­i­tics anger, the most po­tent ar­gu­ment for the anti-mayor cam­paign is the pos­si­ble cost to change. I’ll call non­sense on that ar­gu­ment,” said Ze­bian.

“I think we all ran suc­cess­ful elec­tion cam­paigns dur­ing the last elec­tion and no­body spent a fair amount of money on do­ing it. By us­ing cre­ative tech­niques and a lit­tle el­bow grease, you can do a lot for a lit­tle amount of money.”

Staff re­ports that were pre­pared on the sub­ject for coun­cil’s con­sid­er­a­tion over the last year in­di­cate there would be a fi­nan­cial im­pact since it would add an­other mem­ber to the coun­cil.

“Elected may­ors have the most po­ten­tial to bring the best out of coun­cils. They can drive the man­date, they can bang the ta­ble and they can de­liver re­sults that the peo­ple want to see,” said Ze­bian.

“I be­lieve this is the only way for­ward and it would show our res­i­dents that we re­ally, truly value their voice.”

Af­ter Ze­bian pre­sented a list of pros and cons, coun­cil­lors had the op­por­tu­nity to weigh in — and the vast ma­jor­ity were not in favour of mak­ing the change in time for the 2020 elec­tion.

Coun. Jen­nifer Daniels had a num­ber of con­cerns, and noted that the Mu­nic­i­pal Gov­ern­ment Act con­sid­ers may­ors and war­dens to be equal — nei­ther one has more power than the other.

“Lead­er­ship is not just one per­son around this ta­ble; lead­er­ship is all of us,” she later added.

“The war­den or the mayor, they’re sim­ply the spokesper­son of the mu­nic­i­pal­ity when we all agree on a topic. That’s what it is.”

Daniels also felt it would cost can­di­dates more to run for the po­si­tion of mayor in a large mu­nic­i­pal­ity as they would have to cam­paign across the en­tire Ru­pert Jan­nasch

county in­stead of one dis­trict. She likened it to run­ning for the po­si­tion of MLA.

“The cost is very cost-pro­hib­i­tive,” said Daniels, adding that would limit the peo­ple who could run for of­fice.

“We are grass­roots pol­i­tics. We are not pro­vin­cial pol­i­tics, we are not fed­eral pol­i­tics. This is the op­por­tu­nity that ev­ery­one can have to sit around this ta­ble. It pro­vides a more di­verse op­por­tu­nity.”

Coun. Randy Hussey, Coun Rob­bie Zwicker and Coun. Tanya Leopold all had sim­i­lar con­cerns over mak­ing the switch.

“I would per­son­ally like to see a re­duc­tion in the size of coun­cil, not an ad­di­tional coun­cil per­son or mayor,” said Hussey.

“I think we’re over-gov­erned as it is and I’d like to see the mu­nic­i­pal bound­ary re­view done be­fore we get to a may­oral-war­den sys­tem.”

Coun. Kathy Mon­roe was in favour of mak­ing the switch to a mayor sys­tem, but also wanted a bound­ary re­view com­pleted as she also felt West Hants is over­gov­erned.

“I be­lieve that this is long-range (plan­ning). I be­lieve that the mo­tion was by the next elec­tion. That gives us time. It points our ar­row in the right di­rec­tion,” she said.

Coun. Ru­pert Jan­nasch said he would like to see changes made to how the war­den is se­lected.

When elected in 2016, seven of the 10 coun­cil­lors were new to pol­i­tics. They were re­quired at the first meet­ing to elect a war­den — the per­son who would rep­re­sent them for the next four years.

“I think there is flex­i­bil­ity in the sys­tem, should we choose to pur­sue it, that the de­ci­sion does not have to be made at the first meet­ing of coun­cil for the per­ma­nent war­den,” said Jan­nasch, in­di­cat­ing he’d like to see that idea ex­plored.

Ze­bian’s mo­tion to have the mu­nic­i­pal­ity switch over to a may­oral sys­tem by 2020 was re­jected 7-3. Vot­ing in favour of the change were Ze­bian, Mon­roe and David Keith. Op­posed were Daniels, Hussey, Jan­nasch, Leopold, Zwicker, Deb­bie Fran­cis, and Deputy War­den Paul Mor­ton.

War­den Abra­ham Ze­bian

Randy Hussey

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