There were few surprises at the inaugural meeting of the 2018-2022 Frontenac County Council, which was held on Wednesday, December 22, just as the Frontenac News final edition for 2018 was being printed.
North Frontenac Mayor Ron Higgins will serve as warden for the second year in a row, to be followed in 2020 by Frances Smith (Central Frontenac), who was elected deputy warden for 2019. Ron Vandewal (South Frontenac) will assume the warden’s mantle in 2021, followed by Dennis Doyle (Frontenac Islands) in 2022.
While all four of the above-mentioned mayors are serving at least their second term on council, four new members of Frontenac County Council took office at the meeting. They are: Alan Revill (South Frontenac), Bill MacDonald (Central Frontenac), Gerry Martin (North Frontenac), and Bruce Higgs (Frontenac Islands).
The only other major appointments that were made at the meeting were to the Kingston Frontenac Public Library Board. There are two Frontenac County resident positions on the board, appointed by Frontenac County Council. Council appointed Louise Moody from Central Frontenac to the board, and Natalie Nossal from Howe Island. Council also sends a representative from their own ranks, and that will be Alan Revill.
Warden Higgins delivered an inaugural address. He talked about the importance of the next phase of work by the Eastern Ontario Regional Network (EORN) and the focus on cell and broadband coverage in remote regions of Frontenac and neighbouring counties, a key issue for North Frontenac Township in particular. He talked about the completion of the K&P Trail to Sharbot Lake and the next phase of the trail, through North Frontenac.
He also touched on what he considers to be the very real possibility that the changes in governance that were forced on Toronto City Council in the early days of the new Ontario government last summer, was the first step in a more comprehensive municipal amalgamation exercise in the province.
“Personally, I believe it will expand to municipalities across the province,” he said, and then added that “it is obvious that amalgamation is not working the way it was intended and does not reflect the needs of some municipalities today. I believe we should be thinking about the challenge now to ensure that we are proactive and ready in the event that the province mandates restructuring.”
Among the dignitaries who attended the meeting were MP Mark Gerretsen from Kingston and the Islands, Kingston Mayor Bryan Paterson, as well as Lanark Frontenac Kingston MP Scott Reid and MPP Randy Hillier.
They all spoke briefly, bringing greetings and said they were committed to working with Frontenac County over the next four years.
In his remarks, Scott Reid took up Higgins comments on municipal restructuring, and said he was addressing his remarks “mainly to an audience of one” MPP Hillier, in order to get a message to the Ontario Minister of Municipal Affairs, Steve Clark, who had been scheduled to attend the meeting but was called back to the legislature for an emergency session.
“To try and go back and correct the errors of the past through further amalgamation, will likely bring about a further series of problems that we do not foresee.”
He said that the Canadian experience of governance that features incremental rather than radical change in structures has served the country well.
In his brief remarks, Hillier avoided making any commitments in response to Reid’s advice that municipal restructuring is a dangerous path to undertake.
Instead, he said “regardless of whatever comes up, whatever challenges the county and the municipalities have to face, I will be proud to be with you, to work with you and make sure that we have a strong collaborative approach and that we make things better for this very unique jurisdiction that is Frontenac County.”