Municipal candidates as well as residents want to see an end to the current situation on Erin council, which many see as bordering on “total dysfunction.”
Those words were used during a question period at a municipal candidates meeting in Ballinafad on Oct. 2.
Resident Anna Spiteri posed the following question to a selected number of candidates at the meeting: “With over eight integrity commissioner applications and regular Newspaper reports of what appears to be infighting and conflict,” council and mayoral candidates were asked what steps they would take “to address this situation, which currently borders on total dysfunction.”
Candidate Rod Finnie said in his previous term as mayor, there were no complaints of this nature.
“We seemed to work together,” Finnie said, adding his first approach would be to speak with the new council. He wants to see a diversity of opinion, which is why there are four councillors – not one.
However, at the same time “one must listen to what the other person is saying.”
Finnie said that in his experience as a land surveyor “if I am going through a forest I see the individual trees.” He compared his opponent to a pilot flying above the trees seeing the whole forest.
“Both points of view are perfectly valid and both points of view need to be taken into consideration when decisions are being made.” He said there needs to be respect and acceptance of the wisdom of individual councillors.
“That respect spreads from there to staff,” said Finnie.
Candidate Shawn Wilson said people have got caught up in the fighting.
“It’s not good. Council can’t work that way, nor can any logical form of government. It’s great to have debate, but respect is needed no matter what.”
Wilson said that any time over the past four years, there’s been opportunity to stop the fighting “… and they didn’t.” He said it costs the town money.
“What good is it doing? It is only causing harm.” Additionally, Wilson said it sends a message to Erin’s neighbours that the town is not getting along.
“We have to pull it together and act like human beings and show the rest of the community we can get along, work together and do things right.”
Incumbent councillor John Brennan agreed “the past four years have not been good.”
Brennan said, “For various reasons there has been a council which has spent too much time arguing about the past and not enough time looking to the future. That has to change.”
He added, “The integrity code of ethics was a lofty idea, something we should all aspire to.” However, Brennan agreed the mechanism has become flawed. “It has become flawed because the ethics code has been turned into a stick, a weapon to hit people with.”
It doesn’t work (as is) and needs to be changed, Brennan said.
Candidate Jeff Duncan believed it should be taken a step further, and advocated getting rid of the code of ethics.
Duncan, a former member of Erin council, said that arguing against the code seems like he’s also against “mom and apple pie.”
However, Duncan sees the code of ethics as being divisive to council. He commented that for over 100 years the town and councils never needed a code of ethics. If elected, Duncan said he would bring forward a motion to remove the code of ethics.
“I find it has been used for political squabbles,” he said, suggesting instead that if someone has a political squabble, they can launch a lawsuit and fight it out in court – and not at the taxpayer’s expense.
*Not all candidates were offered a chance to speak to every question at the Oct. 2 Ballinafad meeting.