SYDNEY, N.S. — The process followed by the Municipality of the County of Inverness in electing its warden differs in several ways from the process followed by two Cape Breton municipalities.
Inverness County’s current policy surrounding election of the warden and deputy warden dates back to 2016 and was set by the previous council.
While both Richmond and Victoria counties have two-year terms for warden, Inverness elects its warden for four-year terms.
This was the subject of some discussion as council met Thursday and embarked on the mandated review of the performance of Warden Betty Ann MacQuarrie and deputy warden Alfred Poirier after the first half of their terms.
Councillors passed motions serving notice of the intention to hold votes on whether to remove both MacQuarrie and Poirier from the positions at their Dec. 6 meeting. That would require a two-thirds majority vote of the six-person council.
Provincial legislation requires the council give at least 20 days notice in writing to the clerk, the warden and the councillors, of their intention to vote remove a warden from that office and proceed to elect a new warden.
In an email in response, Department of Municipal Affairs spokeswoman Krista Higdon wrote that, “In recent corporate memory there hasn’t been an incident where a warden has been voted out before a term has ended.”
At Thursday’s meeting, several councillors, including Poirier, suggested two-year terms for warden and deputy warden may be a better practice for Inverness County as well.
“Why be different?” Poirier asked.
In Inverness County, councillors interested in becoming warden put their own names forward for consideration rather than being nominated by other members of council.
Some Inverness councillors also mused about whether, instead of selecting a warden from among their own ranks, a warden could be elected at large.
Under the Municipal Government Act, district municipalities were allowed the option of having a mayor elected at large. The council of a county or district municipality may, at least nine months prior to a regular municipal election, decide that the chair of the council be elected at large. The total number of council members would be increased by one unless the municipality has made an alternative application to the Nova Scotia Utility and Review Board.
If a municipality chooses to move from a warden system to a mayoral system, they have only until Feb. 15 in the year in which the first mayor is to be elected to reverse the decision. They are then not able to subsequently go back to the warden system. This was a prime reason cited by Inverness councillors in 1999 to not switch to electing a mayor.
Another concern that some members of council raised Thursday was that in the event of a tie in a vote for warden or deputy warden, a name is picked out of a hat — which is what happened in 2016 when MacQuarrie became warden. However, that is what is outlined in the Municipal Government Act, which supersedes any municipal policy.