Mono councillors able to continue advocating for residents as election approaches

June 30, 2022   ·   0 Comments

By James Matthews, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

A policy governing the use of Mono’s corporate assets that formerly limited councillors from advocating for residents during an election has been changed.

Mono Council during its public meeting Tuesday changed rules that dictate how municipal resources can be used by incumbents during an election.

Currently, there’s a campaign underway leading up to the municipal election Oct. 24. Deputy Mayor Fred Nix is the only declared incumbent candidate in Mono. Actually, so far his is the only name on the ballot. Residents have until Aug. 19 to enter the political contest.

The Use of Corporate Resources During an Election Policy dictates that no person with access to municipal resources shall use them for campaign-related activities.

It holds that the policy doesn’t prevent councillors from conducting regular duties as political representatives for their constituents. But it also stipulated that “candidates shall not submit a complaint or lobby on behalf of constituents to the town during an election campaign.”

And that was the perceived hiccup in the rules: That sitting councillors who assist residents may have an edge campaign-wise over another candidate who is not on council. The concern was that a councillor may curry favour at the polls by simply fulfilling the responsibility of being on council.

“That’s two ideas there that knock heads together,” said Coun. Ralph Manktelow.

Council voted after much debate to remove the part of the policy that hampered incumbent candidates from completing their tasks as members of the municipal government.

“That puts members of council at somewhat of a disadvantage in being able to continue to do the work ratepayers expect us to do,” said Mayor John Creelman.

He acknowledged that the spirit of the policy was to “level the playing field” between incumbents and candidates vying for a place at town hall.

“It’s a matter of perception,” said Mark Early, CAO of Mono.

Essentially, the concern is that the non-incumbent candidate wouldn’t have the same contacts or influence among town staff.

“A phone call from an incumbent to staff is potentially going to move something up the to-do list (in a town department),” said Fred Simpson, the council clerk. “The policy was to try to avoid putting staff in that position.”

Coun. Melinda Davie suggested the timing of the debate on the policy change was “self-serving for us incumbents,” she said.

If elected officials simply doing their jobs during a campaign can be looked upon as influencing voters, then those councillors effectively get air time during public meetings every two weeks.

If the policy was left to include the restriction on incumbents helping residents during a campaign, there’d be nothing stopping councillors from continuing in their roles while biding their time until the deadline to declare their candidacy.

“There shouldn’t be anything that affects our jobs right up until the future is determined by an election,” Mayor Creelman said.

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