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Council weighs-in on recent resignation

West Nipissing Council will be a councillor short for tomorrow’s meeting, as Ward 7 Councillor (Verner), Jeremy Seguin, resigned from his position on July 18.

Seguin wrote on social media that he believes council has become ‘nothing less than toxic and dysfunctional’ over the last year, to a point where he questions if the democratic process is often still in place.

“I have been nothing but neutral and respectful throughout the last two years,” he states “to a point where this neutrality was a point of great stress.”

Seguin believes that council has been ‘wasting precious time bickering over trivial things’ and lately they have been ‘spending more time talking about how to run council instead of discussing great projects’.

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The former councillor says that “[council] is not discussing matters that affect people, which is why we are supposed to be here.”

Seguin, who shared his experience in politics in the letter, which includes vice-president of the ratepayer’s association in French River, states in the letter that he has ‘never, ever, seen a council act in the manner that ours has been acting since the last election.’

He also states new workplace responsibilities as well as better serving his family as reasons for his resignation.

“Having been a ball of stress over the last year or so, and with the current COVID situation, I find myself lacking as a father and a husband. […] The stress that I bring home is not one that I want to continue bringing home any longer.”

West Nipissing CAO Jay Barbeau says that tomorrow’s meeting will be like every other one.

“I believe councillor Seguin has always worked in the interest of West Nipissing and his ward. By my perspective, I enjoyed working with him and so did municipal staff,” he said. “Tomorrow is a council meeting like any other council meeting. However, the legislation indicates that once aware of a resignation, or a vacancy, that seat needs to be declared vacant at the next council meeting. There will be an addendum issued today to council as well as the public declaring that seat vacant.”

When asked what the future holds for council Barbeau said that he doesn’t speak for council, and that decision will have to be made by them.

“Legislation indicates that once a seat is declared vacant, it needs to be filled. So there is a 60-day period once it’s declared vacant to fill that seat. That’s the law. When it comes to the method used for filling that seat… that’s a discussion for council if whether they hold a by-election or have a new candidate by appointment.”

Barbeau wants to ensure that what is perceived publically is a small portion of what happens, at least from his perspective.

“Rest assured that we are mobilizing resources throughout the municipality and we’re making sure that we offer our services in an efficient and effective manner as we’ve done in the past.” he finished.

Ward 1 councillor, Lise Senecal, said that if she “wasn’t sitting when she read the letter she would’ve had fallen down.”

“I can’t say I don’t understand him. I thought about it myself for a time. But I told myself it was four years, and that I had made a commitment… but I understand him. It’s not easy. It took courage to make a decision like that. In politics, whether you do wrong or you do right people are going to have comments and that’s part of the game. I don’t like that saying, but that’s what it is. We can’t satisfy everybody. I always said that as councillor you have to be there for the right reasons, and to make good decisions you need all the facts and to ask questions. If your conscience is quiet, then you did your job. In large, some of the things he wrote in that letter I understand very well.”

When asked about last week’s meeting, Senecal said that anyone who watched could see how difficult it is to conduct business over the phone.

“People talk over each other. You can be the best chair in the world, but when you try to explain something or to clarify something or asking a question and many point of orders are being thrown around… it was just a free-for-all. It was terrible.”

Ward 2 councillor, Leo Malette, says he is sorry to see Seguin go.

“I really respect his decision. It’s his own decision to make. I’m sorry to see him go. He was a good councillor, and was very fair. He listened to both sides of the issue and voted with his conscience. He’s a very good man. We’re going to miss him.”

Ward 3 councillor Yvon Duhaime,  says he was surprised by the letter.

“Some of the points he stated are true. Things are dysfunctional. Nothing’s working and it hasn’t been in a while. That bothers me a lot. At times, I think of resigning too; there’s no positive.   It doesn’t seem like anything will iron itself out. That’s my opinion. I think the personal conflicts have to stop. If we followed procedures, policies, and the by-laws we have in place… it would work. Everyone has been elected and elected fairly. We need to respect everyone’s position. If we don’t agree, we have a right to speak against it, to vote for or against it. Unfortunately, everyone that sits around that table is an issue. Everyone should be able to ask questions; to get answers without feeling the need to bash anyone or to be bashed. Ask questions, get your truths out on the table. There no need to put somebody down. As long as it’s fair, not personal… but reasonable and balanced. It should be given a proper answer. Reading about the mayor’s leadership was another issue. The Mayor has asked on several occasions for council to work together and for us to mend things and get things working. She’s asked that of council to no avail. We have to work together. The administration has to respect leadership, respect council and we have to respect the administration. “ said Duhaime.

Ward 4 councillor, Dan Roveda, was shocked when he got the news.

“I respect it, though. And it’s for the right reasons. As he outlined in his resignation, the toxic environment is apparent and propelled by a lack of leadership at the helm. Jeremy has a young family and he’s working… the negativity is not conducive to his career. I believe our last meeting was pretty bad… and I think everybody around the table didn’t feel too good. It’s unfortunate. In light of his resignation, it brought forward the issue of a malfunctioning council and its leadership.” Said Roveda

Ward 5 councillor Christopher Fisher says that he doesn’t blame Jeremy.

“I really like Jeremy. I think this is a terrible loss for the community. That’s one thing I have to say. He is aggressive, young, and I would say his views aligned with mine substantially. I don’t blame him to be quite honest; it’s a toxic mess. Jeremy indicated in his letter that dissenting voices aren’t allowed at our council meetings. To me, that’s not democracy. To be told we cannot have opinions is just outrageous. […] I have no idea how this can be fixed but it is what it is. We just have to limp along, I guess.” Said Fisher.

Ward 8 councillor, Denis Senecal says he sympathizes with Seguin.

“I was surprised… but not entirely. The way things are going currently, it’s very stressful for new councillors like myself and Jeremy. It’s a stressful situation. I thought about doing the same thing at some point… But I think I serve the residents better if I stay on council. I could understand Mr. Seguin’s feelings, however, especially with him having a young family. You don’t need that extra stress to bring home. I sympathize with him. I support his decision.

West Nipissing Mayor Joanne Savage says that she was disheartened when she learned of Councillor Seguin’s resignation.

“I foster no ill-feeling with his personal decision and his statement. I have nothing but the utmost appreciation and respect for his goodwill, his contributions, and his commitment to public service. My personal opinion doesn’t differ from councillor Seguin’s comment on the dysfunctionality of council. I want to take this time to apologize for my demeanor at the last meeting; it was unlike me,” said the WN Mayor. “It’s sad that the outcome of last Tuesday’s council meeting ended with the resignation of an elected official. I believe this is an opportunity for us to now take a step back, take a deep breath, and now prioritize the municipality and prioritize working for the people. There have been so many successes throughout the years that I’ve been on council.  We should not be encountering hardship at the table. Who are the individuals that are going to be losing out? The people. I do hope and I do wish that residents speak with their elected officials and say enough is enough. We clearly stated at election time that we wanted a council that could work together and put feelings and dislikes aside. Let’s let history go.”

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