Nfld. & Labrador

2 Musgrave Harbour councillors and town manager resign, citing stress, turmoil

Two new councillors and the town clerk/manager of Musgrave Harbour have resigned citing stress and turmoil within council chambers

Tensions reach boiling point with introduction of policies on vaccination and virtual meetings

Two Musgrave Harbour councillors and a town employee have resigned this week. (Submitted by Grant Abbott)

Musgrave Harbour is down two councillors and a town employee this week, following three resignations announced at a public meeting.

Town manager/clerk Cassandra Mouland and counciillors Janine Chaulk and Brandon Pardy have all stepped down from their positions with the town on Newfoundland's northeast coast.

"It's not about me wanting to leave," said Mouland. "It's about feeling like I need to leave — for myself and for my family."

For the past few months, council members have been dealing with inner turmoil related to a policy, adopted in December, that requires all council members to be vaccinated to attend meetings.

At the time, three councillors were unvaccinated. Two of the three complied, but Coun. Grant Abbott refused, and has not been permitted to attend public meetings since.

Abbott took his fight to social media and has been vocal in his opposition to council. He told CBC News he believes council is trying to force him out of his position.

While the issue with the vaccination pass is the latest conflict within council, Mouland says it's been difficult for a long time. She says the stress has led her to resign, and she has accepted a job at another community.

"I love working hard for my town but I feel because of this situation, my work production here and the things I'm doing here [are] not getting done. I also feel like the behaviour and the obsession that Coun. Abbott has with the town, and the things that he's doing with the town won't stop until I leave, so I feel like I'm being pushed out to resign."

The tension between Abbott and others around the council table was heightened earlier this winter when Abbott started recording public meetings and posting them on social media without the prior knowledge of council. 

I feel like I'm almost being pushed out to resign.- Cassandra Mouland

"I feel like I'm almost being pushed out to resign and as much as I want to be here to support the new council.… I just feel the need to resign for myself and my own health," Mouland said.

Personal health was also cited in the resignation letters of councillors Pardy and Chaulk.

They wouldn't do interviews, but Deputy Mayor Jason Chaulk says he's convinced they would still be on council if it weren't for the current conflict.

"They did not want to vacate their seats, but with the ongoing issues and the Facebook posts and all this kind of stuff, that just didn't work and it was affecting their home life tremendously," he said.

"[This week's meeting] was more like a funeral than a council meeting because everybody was very emotional because this new council had come together and formed a lot of new friendships."

New policy for virtual meetings

After passing the vaccination policy, the town passed another rule allowing councillors to attend meetings virtually only for child-care issues, medical reasons, or if they're out of town for work.

Abbott, who says he was told not to get vaccinated on the advice of his doctor, says the policy was an attempt to have him miss meetings, and then be forced to vacate his seat.

The deputy mayor, however, says council would have gladly accepted a note from Abbott's doctor to attend virtually. Also, Chaulk said outdated technology makes it difficult to conduct online meetings.

"I think it's very important for council to attend in person. You can really get your ideas out there more clearly … and you can debate what you want done."

Investigator hired to try to resolve problems

Chaulk said the town has hired an independent investigator to look into the problems and provide advice on how to move past it.

He said the loss of the employee and two councillors will create a void that will be hard to fill.

"We came here with the intentions of bettering this town and moving everything forward but with these ongoing issues — internal issues — council business is not getting done," he said.

"It can be resolved if Coun. Abbott would comply to what we are asking."

Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador

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