Cape Breton mayor chews out councillor for comments to media

The mayor of the Cape Breton Regional Municipality publicly chastised a councillor last night for violating the municipal code of conduct.

'I'm happy I'm being reprimanded publicly,' says councillor Amanda McDougall

McDougall (right), the councillor for District 8, was one of nine women who signed a letter to the editor in the Cape Breton Post this week, urging the CBRM council to fund a new arts and innovation centre for downtown Sydney. (Canadian Press/Norma Jean MacPhee/CBC)

The mayor of the Cape Breton Regional Municipality publicly chastised a councillor last night for violating the municipal code of conduct.

Cecil Clarke called a parliamentary point of privilege during a regular CBRM council meeting to admonish Amanda McDougall.

This isn't the first time McDougall has been the centre of controversy at Cape Breton regional council. At the beginning of this year her qualifications to sit on the Nova Scotia solid waste resource management committee was questioned by some fellow councillors. 

They suggested McDougall, who is in her 30s and was elected in October 2016, would struggle with the position because the workload is significant and the meetings can "get pretty heavy."

That was despite McDougall's previous work with the Atlantic Coastal Action Program in Cape Breton overseeing projects relating to solid waste management, among other matters.

McDougall, the councillor for District 8, was one of nine women who signed a letter to the editor in the Cape Breton Post this week urging the CBRM council to fund a new arts and innovation centre for downtown Sydney. 

The letter scolded the council for its "apparent resistance" to the funding request, and said that jeopardizing the success of the project was "tantamount to recklessness."

'It is in contravention of the code of conduct' 

Clarke said it was wrong for a councillor to sign such a letter.

"For a council member to question the motive or the integrity or the intent of their fellow colleagues," said the mayor, "and suggest if they don't make a decision in advance of a deliberation, is not appropriate or fair to their colleagues."

"It is in contravention of the code of conduct that we all signed when we were sworn in to treat each other with respect," he said.

McDougall disagreed, saying it's part of the job to "question one another."

Mayor Cecil Clarke in municipal council chambers earlier this year. (Norma Jean MacPhee/CBC)

"We're not here to pat each other on the back and get along all the time," she said. "Nothing in that letter was any different, save a few words, than what I said here tonight. I was equally as critical. I was equally as passionate."

Clarke also criticized McDougall for a weekend television interview in which she said, in part, there was a divide between several councillors and the mayor.

Clarke said she should not speak for other councillors, and that her comments should be made in a "more objective" fashion.

'I disagree with this even being brought up'

McDougall said she has no intentions of apologizing.

She said the mayor's comments were originally planned for an in-camera session of council earlier in the day but were moved to the public session.

"I'm happy I'm being reprimanded publicly," said McDougall. "I'm allowed to have an opinion."

Several other councillors spoke in McDougall's defence including District 11 representative Kendra Coombes.

"I disagree with this even being brought up," said Coombes. "Our job is to go out and express opinions."

About the Author

Wendy Martin

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Wendy Martin has been a reporter for nearly 30 years. Her first job in radio was at the age of three, on a show called Wendy's House on CFCB Radio in Corner Brook, N.L. Get in touch at wendy.martin@cbc.ca

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