Not lame ducks yet

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We’re starting to hear the term “lame duck” in reference to municipal councils.

It refers to restricted powers during election periods.

Basically, if new councils are going to be quite different from the old ones come the Oct. 24 election, there will be a period of time where they will be restricted from making key decisions. 

The thinking is, even though they’ve not been sworn in – and likely won’t be until November – a new regime is on the way and they are the ones to make key decisions. 

Lame duck refers to the period after nomination day Aug. 18 when council could be restricted from appointing or removing any officer of the municipality; hiring or dismissing an employee or disposing of any property with a value of $50,000 when it was acquired, unless included in the 2022 budget passed before nomination day. They are not supposed to make any expenditure or incur any other liability which exceeds $50,000, again, unless included in the 2022 budget. 

Council can delegate the authority to carry out these matters to a person or a body when in lame duck. For example, County of Haliburton CAO Mike Rutter is the delegate for that council and CAOS generally get selected. 

Lame duck will likely apply to the County, for example, since four of eight incumbents are not running (Algonquin Highlands mayor Carol Moffatt; Minden Hills mayor Brent Devolin; Dysart et al mayor Andrea Roberts and deputy mayor Pat Kennedy). The other four, Highlands East mayor Dave Burton, deputy mayor Cec Ryall, Minden Hills deputy mayor Lisa Schell and Algonquin Highlands deputy mayor Liz Danielsen are all running but we don’t yet know if they will be acclaimed or if someone will run against them. 

Of course, lame duck would not apply in an emergency, such as the COVID-19 pandemic. The council could still make decisions for something such as that.

The point, however, is County council still has more than two months to make decisions before nomination day and any question of being in lame duck mode. And indeed, there is nothing stopping them from making many decisions up until Oct. 24, a full four months away. 

Yet, for some time now, some of them are already saying they want to defer major decisions to the incoming council. Perhaps the most notable is the shoreline preservation bylaw. Other major items are the service delivery review and short-term rentals. 

In our opinion, pushing these big-ticket items to the next council in November would simply be an abdication of councillor responsibility. The council has already made decisions in its 2022 budget around the shoreline preservation bylaw, for example. There is nothing that would prevent them from moving the file forward.

After years, and tens of thousands of dollars, a decision should be made before lame duck. In the same vein, councillors must continue to push forward the service delivery review and make a decision about how they are going to manage short-term rentals in future.

Councillors need to complete the job they were elected to do.