UPDATE Kings County councillor alleges bias in Waterville airport move

Kirk Starratt kstarratt@kingscountynews.ca
Published on July 11, 2014

One Kings County councillor is alleging that another councillor is showing “bias” over where the airport should be relocated.

Coun. Jim Winsor said during the July 8 council meeting that he wanted to discuss “a councillor-stated objective” from Coun. Bob Best, who serves on the airport relocation committee.

Winsor had earlier circulated a written request for the in-camera item to his fellow councillors. It alleged that Best, a member of the airport relocation committee, has stated he wanted the airport moved to 14 Wing Greenwood. Winsor wrote that he believed “such bias” may “draw into question and undermine the whole work of the Waterville Airport Relocation Steering Committee.”

In his written notice circulated to councillors, Winsor said that, during the lunch break at the June 17 committee of the whole session, Best was in the lunchroom with others. Best, he alleged, “loudly expressed his view on the airport to me. He made a statement to me to the effect that it has been, and is, his objective from the beginning to see the airport relocated to Greenwood.”

Winsor wrote that Best allegedly “added other language around his intentions on that view. Other councillors, including the deputy warden, overheard these statements. Further, he has been overheard by myself and others mumbling similar things from his seat in council chambers.”

Winsor said Best’s statements could skew “what should be a legitimate process and decision” by the committee. Winsor said they’re trying to put in place a “good, unbiased process” so the committee decision will “stand the test of criticism.”

“We could go through this exercise and then someone calls into question the result,” Winsor said.

Winsor added that he had brought his concerns first to the warden and deputy warden before going public with them.

 

No bias: Best

Best says he doesn’t have any bias that would prevent him from serving on the relocation committee.

“When you’re on a committee, anyone can have any view,” Best said. “Everything is voted on. There’s nothing to hide.”

Best said the committee would weigh the options and make recommendations to council, which will have the final say.

14 Wing Greenwood is a good spot for a relocated airport, he said, but there are a lot of good spots. The Department of National Defence is exploring the Greenwood possibility and Best said he’s interested in hearing what they have to say about it first.

“I don’t have a bias,” Best said. “I’ll vote for the best option.”

However, whatever the relocation committee decides, he’ll stand behind it.

“When the vote is done, I’m done,” he said.

Best said he doubts the province has the approximately $15 million it would take to reestablish the municipal airport on a new site, so the Greenwood option may prove to be the most feasible financially. 

Discuss it openly: solicitor

Although Winsor asked for in-camera session to discuss his concerns about Best, debating the appropriateness of a council appointment to the airport relocation committee is a matter for open public discussion, the county solicitor said.

 “It’s not, in my opinion, something we should discuss in-camera,” Andrew Montgomery said. “It’s a matter of open discussion.”

The statement drew objection from Coun. Wayne Atwater, who said, “I can’t believe the solicitor would say we’re going to talk about personnel in public.”

Montgomery said it’s not a personnel matter; it deals with a committee appointment made in public.

Winsor then requested to add to the agenda a public discussion of his issues with Best’s appointment. A two-thirds majority vote was required to add the agenda item, but it was defeated, with councillors Atwater, Best, Dale Lloyd and Kim MacQuarrie voting against it.

Earlier in the session, Winsor asked to have a motion added to the agenda to extend the closure date for the municipal airport. Montgomery said the item would have to be considered urgent in nature and the addition would have to be supported by a two-thirds majority of council.

“I would contend this is an urgent matter,” Winsor said, pointing out that some airport businesses are “going under” and any would tell you it’s “of the utmost urgency.”

The motion to add the item was also defeated.