NWR to operate with just four acclaimed councillors
© Bonnie Learning
Just four people from the Town of North West River put their names forward by the election nomination deadline.
It appears that the voting public in the central Labrador town of North West River can stay home on Sept. 24.
That’s because just four people put their names forward for this year’s elections — therefore, all are in by acclamation.
Incumbent councillors Robin Goodfellow-Baikie, Ralph Lyall and Estelle Michelin — along with former Mayor Arthur Williams — were the only ones to submit nomination papers by the Town’s Aug. 30 deadline.
“North West River has a bad history of not having a general election,” said Williams on Sept. 3.
“There hasn’t been an election here in as long as I can remember.”
Williams noted he served 12 years total on the town council — including one term as deputy mayor in the late 1990’s — up to and including two back-to-back terms as Mayor up to 2009 before giving it up four years ago.
However, he said he wanted to give it another go in council chambers, but was disappointed more people didn’t come forward.
“We will get in by acclamation, of course,” he said. “But it’s always more exciting when there is race.”
Williams said he doesn’t know for sure what caused the low turnout this time around, but he does have a theory.
“Four years is a big commitment, and our council is all volunteer — there is no stipend of any kind, like they have in other bigger municipalities like Happy Valley-Goose Bay, to compensate you for your time. I think the days of people volunteering their time (on council) is coming to an end.”
Williams noted he is getting back on Council because he enjoys the work and with his work schedule (he works shift work at the Base fire hall), likely has more time to spend at it — another reason, he believes, might be keeping people away.
“I guess with people working five days a week, they don’t really feel like going to a meeting after work, or attending to things on weekends,” he said.
‘Should call by-election’
A spokesperson for the Department of Municipal Affairs explained to The Labradorian that the Town of North West River can operate fully with just four councillors, as that is enough for a quorom.
“Provided they are able to reasonably carry out the needs of the community — including financial decisions — then they can generally act as council,” said the spokesperson.
“That being said, they can and should consider a by-election to attempt to attract additional councillors.”
The spokesperon added a tied vote is considered a defeated vote.
The spokesperson noted the mayor position would be voted on between the four acclaimed councillors, with 2/3 majority required.
As well, if it happened that one or more of the councillors were to quit or resign partway through his or her term, it would mean (in this case) the town would not have quorum, and Municipal Affairs would have to look at the situation at the time.
“In that kind of scenario, we would again suggest a by-election be carried out to bring up the numbers on council again,” said the spokesperson.
“The goal of Municipal Affairs is to have a strong council of democratically elected individuals rather than to appoint administrators for the town.”
Issues for council
Once council is straightened away, Williams said there are several items on his agenda he would like to see council address.
“The North West River road (to Goose Bay) is one of my priorities,” he said. “There are willows all alongside, which makes it dangerous for drivers with regards to moose, and there has been virtually no maintenance this summer that I could see, other than a few new guardrails leading up to Goose River bridge.”
He added he will also be looking for answers from the Department Works and Services as to whether or not salt is actually used on the highway in the winter, which is widely believed.
“My truck is just four-and-a-half years old, and it’s starting to rust,” he said.
Williams said there is also ample opportunity for council to engage in other issues facing the community, especially as it relates to tourism.
“We won the Tidy Towns title in 2012, and it would be nice to keep that going, with an on-going community beautification program.”
He added the potential for more work at the local public beach, such as addressing parking issues, public washrooms and so on, is something council could review, as well as the need to identify more land for future residential development.
“Right now, there is no land available for new people wanting to build a new home in the community,” he said.
He said this would also include encouraging private citizens to possibly look at establishing a campground in the community.
“This is something that is badly needed,” said Williams.
“I recently spoke to some tourists who camped out on top of Sunday Hill — they had the full views of Lake Melville, Grand Lake — and they loved it, they thought it was absolutely beautiful. This is something we need to develop — campgrounds around the community.”