Nova Scotia

CBRM councillor feels demeaned after committee appointment questioned

A municipal councillor in Cape Breton says she was demeaned and her qualifications belittled by council colleagues Tuesday when a discussion about filling seats on a committee turned personal.

Newly elected CBRM councillor Amanda McDougall says council debate turned personal

CBRM Councillor Clarence Prince talks about the importance of the position on the waste management committee (via CBRM website stream)

5 years ago
Duration 0:29
CBRM Councillor Clarence Prince talks about the importance of the position on the waste management committee (via CBRM website stream)

A municipal councillor in Cape Breton says she was demeaned and her qualifications belittled by council colleagues Tuesday when a discussion about filling a seat on a committee turned personal.

Amanda McDougall, the councillor for Glace Bay-Donkin-Albert Bridge, was chosen by the nominating committee to sit on the Nova Scotia solid waste resource management committee before the council meeting began.

During the Cape Breton regional council meeting that followed, Coun. George MacDonald asked the nominating committee — of which McDougall is a member — to reconsider its choice. 

Other councillors suggested McDougall, who is in her 30s and was elected last October, would struggle with the position.

Coun. Amanda McDougall says she thinks the conversation over decorum will lead to better conversations between councillors. (Norma Jean MacPhee/CBC)

"I had no idea that expressing an interest in this type of committee seat would generate heated debate," said McDougall.

"Sometimes it was quite personal in terms of … demeaning my qualifications, education and capability to actually fill the requirements of that committee seat."

Hotly contested seat

McDougall was one of three councillors vying for the committee seat. Also running were Ivan Doncaster, who represents Howie Centre-East Bay-Mira Road, and Jim MacLeod, who represents Whitney Pier-Victoria Mines. MacLeod had been a committee member for eight years.

During the meeting, Coun. Clarence Prince told council the workload for the committee member was significant.

"You have to realize you are dealing with people from seven different regions on solid waste and it's a very important position to be on and you really got to work your way up," said Prince, the councillor for Sydney Mines-Florence-Little Pond-Alder Point.

Coun, Eldon MacDonald also weighed in, pointing out that McDougall hasn't been a member of council for long.

"I know when I've sat in on some of these solid waste committee meetings, sometimes it can get pretty heavy," said MacDonald who represents Downtown Sydney-Membertou.

Coun. George MacDonald said the nominating committee should reconsider appointing his fellow councillor, Amanda McDougall, to the solid waste management committee. (Norma Jean MacPhee)

George MacDonald explained Wednesday he wanted to make sure MacLeod's experience had been fully considered, given MacLeod had spent eight years on the committee.

"He had put his heart and soul into that," MacDonald said. "He took it right to heart, so I knew he was very upset so I thought maybe there should be discussion."

Councillor supports McDougall

McDougall previously worked with ACAP Cape Breton overseeing projects relating to solid waste management, among other matters.

Coun. Earlene MacMullin, who represents North Sydney-Point Aconi-Bras d'Or, said she feels McDougall is up to the job. She suspects the issue might be bigger than a disagreement over a committee.

"It kind of put new councillors versus experienced councillors," she said.

"It's a conversation that had to be had. It's just unfortunate it was Coun. McDougall that had to be the centre of it."

McDougall said she believes "deep down" that the pushback "has to do with change."

As for those who think she's not up to the task, McDougall had one piece of advice: "Watch me."

With files from the CBC's Norma Jean MacPhee and Gary Mansfield

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