Well it was sort of an apology, but I hope that Town Officials have learned a lesson. No, not the lesson of starting a fight with someone who can defend themselves. It’s the lesson that Council, abetted by Staff, should be open and direct in their dealings with all members of the community. No hidden agendas, and no hiding behind closed meetings of Council. There is a reason that provincial regulations restrict the number of issues that can be discussed behind closed doors, and not made public. Too many municipal organizations, one in our area (not Parry Sound) was recently censured for being a little too closed.

The apology was to Ms. Lis McWalter concerning her unceremonious, and without recourse, removal from the Board of the Downtown Business Association in 2014. Here’s the apology, most certainly drafted by lawyers.

Lis McWalter, former Chair of the Parry Sound Downtown Business Association
Posted on Wednesday June 01, 2016

 A Media Release issued by the Corporation of the Town of Parry Sound on April 8, 2014 referred to Lis McWalter and her departure from her position as Chair of the Parry Sound Downtown Business Association.  The Media Release may have been interpreted to suggest misconduct on the part of Ms. McWalter.  There was no such misconduct.  The Town of Parry Sound thanks Ms. McWalter for her voluntary service on the Downtown Business Association, regrets any harm that may have been caused, and apologizes to Lis McWalter.

So why was she removed? Hmm, not worth mentioning or discussing. Let’s just apologize, and not take any real responsibility.

The lesson that I have learned from this whole issue is not to serve on a Parry Sound Committee of Council. There is no reason that Council cannot once again turf out a board member that they find objectionable, or threatening to their political security. After the McWalter debacle in 2014, Staff presented Council with a revised set of regulations covering the governance of committees. It fell short of what I thought was necessary to protect the interests of volunteers. Basically Council could remove anyone from any committee at their sole discretion, but now officially. There was no option for appeal, or a requirement that Council meet and speak with the individual to better understand the situation.

That’s why I will not sit on a committee of Council until the regulations covering committees are amended to allow for a proper review and appeal process. I do not recommend that anyone else sit on a committee of Council if they wish to help promote change. It’s too easy for public officials to claim they never received the message if they first shoot the messenger.

All that being said, I am very upbeat about this session’s Council. I see them working as a team and thinking ahead, something that was absent in the last session of Council. Perhaps it’s a couple of council members with a bit more experience, or it’s the presence of the new council members. Also contributing to the proactive thinking is a Senior Staff, most of whom are relatively new to Parry Sound, better understanding the issues facing the Town, and the personality of Council. Regardless, it’s a welcome sign of progress.

Two requests of Council and Staff:

  1. Let’s add protection for citizens who volunteer their time to sit on a Committee of Council. They should be able to directly address issues concerning their contribution and conduct that is being considered grounds for dismissal.
  2. Let’s get back to the one garbage bag issue that Council promised to address a few months ago. It’s hard to imagine a family with two kids in diapers, working two jobs, having to work with a one bag limit because they don’t live in a ‘two-bag’ neighbourhood. Let’s be generous. We rarely put out two bags of garbage, so I’m happy to share my allotment with others.