PORT HOOD, N.S. — A coup intended to remove Betty Ann MacQuarrie from her role as warden of Inverness County was successful Thursday.
However, at the end of the day, it was MacQuarrie who found herself retaking the warden’s chair.
It’s likely safe to say the sequence of events that occurred at the regular monthly session of Inverness County has never occurred before at any other Nova Scotia municipality and wouldn’t have been out of place as a plot point in the sitcom “Parks and Recreation.”
Going into the meeting, councillors had served notice of motion of their intent to hold votes on whether to remove both MacQuarrie and Deputy Warden Alfred Poirier from their leadership roles. If the votes were successful, councillors would then go on to choose a new warden and deputy.
The vote came after months of several members of council expressing frustration with MacQuarrie’s record as warden, including her ability to keep order at council meetings, as well as comments she had made to the media on some topics.
When the time came to vote on MacQuarrie’s future — the removal motion was put forward by John MacLennan and seconded by John Dowling — the necessary two-thirds of councillors voted in favour of the motion — Dowling, MacLennan, Jim Mustard and Poirier.
“That’s two-thirds. I’m gone, for now,” MacQuarrie said, immediately after the vote.
Her comment was prescient.
Nominations for a new warden were then sought, with Mustard nominating Poirier, and Laurie Cranton nominating MacQuarrie.
After both were given an opportunity to say how they intended to approach the role of warden, a secret ballot was then conducted, which resulted in a tie vote. Under the protocol set out by the Municipal Government Act, the two names were then to be placed into a hat, or in this case, a basket.
“The name drawn is Betty Ann MacQuarrie,” CAO Keith MacDonald said, to applause from those in the gallery.
MacQuarrie put her head in her hands, before Poirier rose to his feet to congratulate her.
Then came the motion to remove Poirier as deputy warden, which Poirier moved himself and which passed unanimously. Then he was again nominated as deputy, as was Mustard and the subsequent secret ballot also resulted in a stalemate, and it was Poirier’s name then chosen from the basket.
“We’re right back where we started,” MacQuarrie said.
Following the meeting, she said she believed council was now ready to move on.
“I think we’re all ready to move forward as a team and put this all behind us and maybe look at the process to see, I don’t know, if anybody would want to go through that process,” MacQuarrie said. “There were several reviews … it was difficult to think that your council members weren’t behind you, but I think everybody is rallying to be a team now.”
Poirier said he is now fully supportive of MacQuarrie’s leadership.
“It’s like everything else — democracy wins and that’s what happened and at the same time I had a few concerns … we shook hands and we’re going to go ahead with it,” he said.
The next municipal elections in Nova Scotia take place in 2020.