© Ashley Thompson
Windsor Mayor Paul Beazley looks over at West Hants Warden Richard Dauphinee as co-operation talks heat up at a joint council meeting March 27.
Following a tense exchange at the joint council meeting in March, West Hants council has opted to reject signing an inter-municipal co-operation protocol agreement with Windsor and Hantsport.
Council has, however, instructed the municipality's staff and CAO to continue working with their neighbours in order to find cost savings and efficiencies.
During West Hants council's regular monthly meeting April 8, Warden Richard Dauphinee explained to council why he walked out of the March 27 joint council meeting in Windsor.
“In all my years, close to 27 years, I've never walked out of a meeting,” Dauphinee said as he began explaining what led him to walk out.
During the joint council meeting, which was hosted in Windsor and chaired by Windsor Mayor Paul Beazley, the warden was cut off several times as he attempted to ask questions about a letter the town sent to Mark Furey, the minister responsible for Service Nova Scotia and Municipal Relations, requesting further meetings on municipal reform. The letter was sent to Hantsport's council days prior to West Hants council learning of its existence.
Dauphinee said he was so bothered by his treatment at the joint council meeting that he looked up Windsor's proceedings of the council bylaw. That bylaw states: “no member shall speak more than twice on the same question and no longer than five minutes of each such occasion unless by special leave of the council.”
Dauphinee suggested a refresher course on proper council decorum may be in order to help future meetings run smoothly.
“I'm not being snarky; I'm trying to be professional. Somebody doesn't know what they're doing,” he said.
Dauphinee said despite not signing the joint agreement in March, council had the option of signing it later on at their regular April meeting. Dauphinee then noted that staff members were already doing a great job working together with Hantsport and Windsor employees without the protocol signed.
Annexation talks subject of concern
Coun. Shirley Pineo, who was the first to walk out of the joint council meeting, said she left the meeting as she had enough of listening to the warden being cut off by the mayor.
“At that point in time, you were trying to tell us something and it was information that I had never heard before and it was in regards to a meeting supposedly between the two mayors of the two towns,” said Pineo. “I believe it was the annexation of Falmouth. We were totally unaware. All you were trying to do was tell us of information that had come forth.”
Pineo requested Dauphinee fill council in on the subject.
“Mount Denson and Falmouth is part of our municipality. If we're the last ones to know what's going on, I don't see that as being any kind of co-operation with anybody,” she said.
The warden said he wasn't 100 per cent sure who attended the meeting between Windsor and Hantsport but confirmed annexation of West Hants' lands was proposed at the meeting between the towns, which he didn't feel was proper.
“If you can't talk to each other, or if one party is left out, that's the point I was trying to get across (at the joint council meeting). Communication is trust. We have to sit down and work together.”
Support for warden expressed
Coun. Randy Matheson commended the warden for taking a stand and leaving the joint council meeting. Matheson said he would have walked out in solidarity with Dauphinee if he had been at the meeting.
Matheson said in light of the conduct they've witnessed from Windsor, they shouldn't sign the joint protocol agreement.
“It's not let's compromise, let's work together. It's all take,” said Matheson.
During the joint council meeting, Coun. Scott Geddes noted the region has been labelled as dysfunctional due to the lack of co-operation between the councils. Matheson raised this point at West Hants' meeting.
“We're not dysfunctional. There is dysfunction. You experienced it that evening,” said Matheson, referencing the warden not being allowed to speak.
“The other night, I saw a lot of disrespect and until we can earn the respect between us again, I don't see any point in signing a paper. For all it's worth, it's just a piece of paper.” Coun. Shirley Pineo
Upcoming joint council meeting
Coun. Jennifer Daniels said she didn't walk out on the joint council meeting because she wanted to see the agreement signed.
“I was there to see that joint protocol agreement signed in support of the staff and the CAOs who have worked hard since last fall, and years prior to, and to see to it that it was solidified and that all their work was not done in vain,” she said.
The warden thanked Daniels for her comment and said he also hopes staff will be able to carry on working together.
“I'm still behind staff 110 per cent on working out any joint services that can save our residents money and we can work together,” said Dauphinee.
However, he said what he witnessed at the meeting made him realize the agreement wasn't “worth the paper it's written on.”
Coun. Mike Campbell asked if there would be future joint council meetings, or if they are to boycott them. West Hants council is slated to host the next joint council meeting on May 22 at 7 p.m.
“I'll be at the next joint council meeting. I'm not that small of a person,” said Dauphinee, noting that when he chairs it, he won't cut people off from speaking.
“Joint council meetings, if they're going to work, yes, we will have joint council meetings. If they turn into a charade, then that's up to council to give direction here. I get one vote, the same as everybody else. If you people tell me you still want joint council meetings, then I'll be at the joint council meetings.”
Agreement signing struck down
Later in the evening, council voted to support the warden and not sign the agreement. However, the decision was not unanimous. Councillors Victor Swinamer and Daniels voted nay. Dauphinee abstained from the vote.
Prior to the vote, Daniels, Swinamer and Campbell all indicated they wanted to see the agreement signed.
“Is that protocol really not for the CAOs and the staff to see that they're working together?” asked Daniels. “They're the ones that are doing the number crunching and looking at infrastructure and doing the work to bring back to us. That protocol is for them.”
She said it was frustrating that council would agree to sign it, then change their minds after the incident at joint council.
“I would like to see us sign it and be done with what happened and move on and just respect each other.”
Pineo then urged council to not sign the agreement.
“I didn't see any respect. I haven't seen any respect for some time,” said Pineo. “The other night, I saw a lot of disrespect and until we can earn the respect between us again, I don't see any point in signing a paper. For all it's worth, it's just a piece of paper. If they're not going to follow (it), then what's the point of having it signed?”
Matheson offered a similar sentiment while discussing the topic.
“I don't think we should sign it on the basis of what has happened. This is based on trust and co-operation,” said Matheson.
He noted residents shouldn't be penalized for council's decision, and like Dauphinee, encouraged the CAOs and department heads to continue to work for the betterment of the region.
“The people of Windsor didn't do anything wrong. The employees didn't do anything wrong. We've got to remember that,” said Matheson at the meeting, noting Hantsport also hasn't done anything wrong.
After not signing the agreement, Matheson gave notice that he intended to make a motion to rescind the adoption of the inter-municipal co-operation protocol agreement. Council then unanimously voted to allow staff to continue working with neighbouring municipalities on cost-saving initiatives.