Hay River council votes to leave seat empty

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Hay River’s council will be one member short for the rest of the current term after it was decided to leave a vacant seat empty during the July 16 council meeting.

The decision was close with four members voting in favour of a motion put forward by Coun. Keith Dohey to leave the seat vacant at the previous meeting, and three voting against.

“I don’t see any circumstance where council should have the right to appoint someone to an elected position. I’ve gone around since then asked everyone I’ve run into about this and my opinion hasn’t changed,” Dohey said before the vote.

Candidates for council at an Oct. 10 all-candidates' forum – at which the legalization of cannabis was a prominent topic. Paul Bickford/NNSL photo.
Candidates for council at an Oct. 10 all-candidates’ forum. NNSL file photo.

“I don’t think we’re selling anyone short by having one less councillor.”

During the previous meeting Dohey’s motion received the vocal support of Robert Bouchard and Emily Chambers, both of whom ended up voting in favour it.

At first it appeared as if there was going to be just three councillors in favour of the motion.

However, after an extended pause Coun. Lind Duford, who said she would vote with the majority at the last meeting, raised her hand to break the tie.

Councillors Brian Willows and Steve Anderson both raised concerns about proceeding with the motion before the vote.

Last fall, the eighth and final spot on council was decided by pulling a name out of a hat after Sandra Leslie and Joe Melanson had the same number of votes.

Melanson’s name was drawn giving him the seat, but he recently left town leaving it vacant.

Mayor Kandis Jameson told The Hub she wasn’t concerned with council being down a seat. NNSL file photo

Leslie, who was in attendance at last week’s meeting, was visibly upset by council’s decision.

“I’m obviously disappointing and I think it was the wrong decision,” Leslie told The Hub.

She expressed concern that with just seven councillors the balance of power has shifted from the mayor to council.

“It’s basically taken the power away from the mayor and handed it over to any four councillors that want to run the show from here on in,” she said.

“The mayor isn’t the balance of power anymore.”

Mayor Kandis Jameson told The Hub that she wasn’t concerned with the decision. She said she would still weigh in on important matters when the situation called for it.

“If I feel like the issue is hard enough, I’ll ask someone else to take the chair and vote on it,” she said.