COLUMN: Moving South Dundas in the wrong direction

(Newswatch Group/Bill Kingston, File)

SOUTH DUNDAS ā€” One of the common stigmas attached to a rural municipality is that they are backwards, the sticks, a place where time stands still. Most rural municipalities go to great lengths to counter this in order to grow business, or at the least, stem the tide of businesses leaving. Up until now, South Dundas was one of those municipalities that worked hard, to varying degrees of success, to draw in new business and try to retain what was here. That time has passed.

A 3-to-2 vote at the June 2nd council meeting not only stopped the clock on growth and retention of business in South Dundas, it changed the direction of the clock and sent it careening backwards in one of the most regressive ways possible.

Since the April 23rd announcement that Nicole Sullivan was leaving her position as Economic Development Officer (EDO), South Dundas council has been plagued with indecision on filling the role. That indecision ended on June 2nd with a 3-to-2 vote against advertising the position as available. South Dundas will not have an Economic Development Officer.

This is a fool-hardy and feckless decision by Mayor Evonne Delegarde and Councillors Bill Ewing and Marc St. Pierre. Without a dedicated Economic Development Officer for the municipality, South Dundas is now hamstrung in its ability to compete for new business opportunities, to attract development, and to work with established businesses to stay and grow.

This is the most regressive step taken in a council in South Dundas since amalgamation.

Look around. The communities that are prospering, that are growing, are the ones that take proactive steps to promote themselves. Having a website, with information on it is not enough. Having groups like the local chamber of commerce pick up the slack is not an good option either. Any group out there is answerable to their members, and thus has to follow the mandate of those members. Only the municipality clearly represents the interests of ALL stakeholders of the community, which is every resident and ratepayer.

If I were the Economic Development Officer in any neighbouring municipality right now, I would be rejoicing that there is one less player on the field.

By shuttering this position, council has shuttered development in South Dundas. It is regressive, counter-productive, and turns the clock back in South Dundas.

While the mayor, in her interview with Cornwall Newswatch’s Bill Kingston, said they can change their minds; I do not believe that the council of this day will do that.

Bravo to Deputy Mayor Jim Locke and Councillor Archie Mellan for seeing the value and need for this position.

Over the first six months of this council’s mandate, the council has tread-ed water, not really moving anything forward, except for the washroom for the park in Morrisburg. Now, they have started the move backwards. How far this move will go, remains to be seen.

Replacing Brock Frost

Unlike many commentators and commenters, I disagree with Denis Carr, the 12th place runner in the October 2014 municipal election, being named as Frost’s replacement around the table at Cornwall City Council.

In all of the examples in this region that could be found point to the next available candidate taking the available spot only at, or after, the halfway point in the elected mandate. From Bill Ewing taking over the seat in South Dundas that Ron Delegarde resigned in 2005, to Mary Ann Hug filling the seat in Cornwall after Guy Leger died in November 2008.

Frost’s resignation is not this case having just past the six-month mark of a four-year term. Brock Frost has resigned, effective July 1st. Whatever the reasons for that resignation are irrelevant to the discussion, except that there is three-and-a-half years left on the mandate he was elected to. No disrespect to Denis Carr and all of the work he has done in the community and on council in the past, but he does not have a mandate from the people. Neither would Guy St. Jean either if he was available. Appointing the next runner-up to fill the last year or 18 months of a term is one thing. Appointing someone to fill 42 months of a term is another. It is unacceptable.

There should be a by-election to fill Frost’s so-to-be vacant seat. Let the people’s vote be counted and let Frost’s replacement have a true mandate for the next 42 months.

 

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