Is Huntsville Council a lame duck? Not so far, says the Clerk

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Is council a lame duck? It’s honestly not a rhetorical question, just one related to its ability to make major decisions under the Municipal Act as a new council comes in.

Because most of the members of Huntsville’s current municipal council will be running in the upcoming October election, council is not considered to be in a lame duck situation. If council were to be in a lame duck position, there would be restrictions on spending as well as the hiring and dismissal of municipal employees, among other things. Here is what council could not do if it were considered to be a lame duck, as per the Municipal Act:

Restrictions on a lame duck Council pursuant to subsection 275(3) of the Act are:

  1. Council may not appoint or remove from office any officer of the municipality;
  2. Council may not hire or dismiss any employee of the municipality;
  3. Council may not dispose of any real or personal property of the municipality which had a value exceeding $50,000 at the time of disposal (unless included in a budget adopted by Council prior to nomination day);
  4. Council may not make any expenditure or incur any other liability exceeding $50,000 (unless the liability was included in a budget adoption by Council before nomination day).

“Lame duck provisions apply when it is absolutely certain that the incoming Council will include less than 75 per cent of the members of the outgoing Council,” states a report compiled by Huntsville Municipal Clerk Tanya Calleja.

Two councillors have been acclaimed (meaning no one is running against them)—Councillors Karin Terziano (Huntsville Ward) and Jonathan Wiebe (Chaffey Ward)—and one Councillor, Det Schumacher (Stisted, Stephenson and Port Sydney ward), is retiring. The remaining current councillors, although challenged, are all once more running for municipal office. Therefore, it is not “absolutely certain” that the incoming council will comprise less than 75 per cent (seven of nine councillors) of the current outgoing council.

There are generally two periods in which a council can be considered a lame duck. The first is between the closing of Nomination Day on July 27, 2018 and at the closing of Election Day on October 22, 2018. The second period falls between the closing of Election Day (8 p.m. on October 22, 2018) and the end of the previous term of council (November 30, 2018). If a new council is elected which comprises less than seven councillors (75 per cent) from the last council, the outgoing council is considered a lame duck and cannot make major decisions, like those noted above. Some powers can be delegated to the Municipality’s Chief Administrative Officer, provided they are delegated before Nomination Day, according to Calleja’s report.

There are also provisions in the case of emergencies, where the lame duck restrictions do not apply.  “The definition of an ’emergency’ as outlined in the Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act means a situation or an impending situation that constitutes a danger of major proportions that could result in serious harm to persons or substantial damage to property and that is caused by the forces of nature, a disease or other health risk, an accident or an act whether intentional or otherwise,” adds Calleja’s report.

Lame duck provisions were put in place to ensure the outgoing council does not make major decisions, decisions which may better correspond to a new council with a new mandate.

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1 Comment

  1. The Municipal Act is a provincial statute. So is the Corporations Act, the Police Act etc. Does this mean the Premier can decide to intrude on the deliberations of those bodies by invoking the not withstanding clause? Scary?

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