By Chad Ingram
Published Aug. 3 2017
The term length for warden of Haliburton County – the head of county council – will remain at one year. Haliburton County council is comprised of eight councillors who are the reeves and deputy-reeves of the county’s four lower-tier municipalities.
County councillors had a discussion about the role of warden during a July 26 meeting. Council had previously asked that a staff report be drawn up with options regarding the post including how the warden is chosen and how long the warden’s term lasts.
In Haliburton County the warden is chosen during county council’s yearly inaugural meeting which takes place in December. Councillors nominate one another from the floor and a nomination must be seconded in order to stand. There is generally no actual competition on the floor with a preselected individual voted into the position.
A report from chief administrative officer Mike Rutter detailed how wardens are chosen in other counties in Ontario. Terms in other communities last one or two years. Some counties have campaigning periods and in many where the election of a warden is required voting is done by secret ballot. Some have special requirements – that a warden must have been a member of county council within the previous two terms for example – and some counties include a position of deputy-warden.
In the past Algonquin Highlands Mayor Carol Moffatt has suggested that a term longer than one year would be helpful since many of the regional and provincial projects the warden becomes involved in are multi-year projects.
Minden Hills Reeve and County Warden Brent Devolin part way through his first year as warden seemed to agree with that logic.
“I’ve come to the conclusion that a two-year term versus a one-year term is a beneficial thing” Devolin said.
However it became quickly evident the majority of county councillors prefer the one-year term. “Anybody can make the case to be warden and get the support of council” said Dysart et al Reeve Murray Fearrey who’s served as county warden a dozen times. “We’re a small group here and I think it’s fine at one year.”
Dysart et al Deputy-reeve Andrea Roberts said in her experience at the county council table it’s been an “unsaid unspoken thing that it [the position of warden] would be rotated through the four municipalities.”
In the past some wardens have served more than one consecutive year and councillors agreed if a current warden wanted to continue for a second year that person was free to do so with the support of council. “It could end up being a two-year term” Roberts said. “It should be the best person.”
Minden Hills Deputy-reeve Cheryl Murdoch and Highlands East Reeve Dave Burton both said they liked the system how it is.
“This is not a hat to try on” said Algonquin Highlands Mayor Carol Moffatt. “It’s becoming a more and more important and busy role.” Moffatt who served as warden in 2013 and again in 2016 said “it seemed to me that if somebody wanted a second year nobody would let them have a second year.”
Moffatt also said that county council should be determining the work and priorities of the warden and that there should be more frequent reporting by the warden back to county council on activities such as those through the Eastern Ontario Wardens’ Caucus.
Algonquin Highlands Deputy-mayor Liz Danielsen agreed.
“I do think we need to talk more about what is going on at the wardens’ caucus” Danielsen said. Danielsen said she also thought that individuals should have to serve a full four-year term on county council become they become eligible to be warden. Few councillors seem to agree with that idea which was shot down by Fearrey.
“What happens if there’s eight of us here and seven of us don’t get re-elected?” Fearrey said.
Highlands East Deputy-reeve Suzanne Partridge who said she was also in favour of a one year-term said the position of deputy-warden would be beneficial to the county. Other councillors agreed the creation of a deputy-warden position could be useful particularly in representing the county at the many events the warden is expected to attend.
Moffatt noting that counties have campaign periods also suggested that warden nominees should have to make pitches for themselves explaining why they’d be best suited for the role. “It’s an election” she said. “Just because there aren’t 15000 people voting in it doesn’t mean we can’t hold ourselves to a bit of a higher standard.”
Rutter will draft an updated procedural bylaw which will include suggestions from the discussion. That draft will come back to the council table.