You’ve heard of being a “sitting duck”, but have you ever heard of being a “lame duck”? That’s what the council of the United Counties of Prescott and Russell (UCPR) will be unless six of its current eight mayors are up for election again later this year.

The nomination period for the upcoming municipal elections is from May 1 to July 27. If fewer than six of the eight current mayors are up for election, then council is considered a “lame duck” council. If six of the eight aren’t re-elected, then it becomes a lame duck after the election (October 22) until the new council is ratified in late December. In either case, council would be restricted from making key decisions.

Some of those decisions include:

  • Appointing or removing officers of the municipality
  • Hiring or dismissing employees
  • Disposing of any municipal property valued at more than $50,000
  • Approving any expenditures non-budgeted expenditures costing more than $50,000

Lame duck impact

So why does this matter? Last year the province introduced new regulations to the Municipal Conflict of Interest Act. Some of the new regulations are straight-forward: creating a code of conduct for council, re-defining what constitutes a meeting, allowing for electronic participation to meetings. The new regulations also called on municipalities to hire an Integrity Commissioner.  

Remember that grant awarded to UCPR for commuter cycling? Well that’s also affected by becoming a lame duck.

Marc Clermont, the public works director, was told the $419,000 grant is only good for this year. As it’s over the $50,000 limit, that funding will have to be allotted before the end of July—mid road-work season.

See below the approved projects by the Ontario Municipal Commuter Cycling program:

Technically, municipalities don’t have to accept the money. But that’s not the plan for Clermont and the department.

“I would recommend going ahead because they are funding 80 per cent of the paved shoulders of the roadway, whereas usually the ratepayers would pay 100%,” he wrote in an email. “In 2014, council adopted a policy that when the Counties pave a road, shoulders are also paved for the active transportation. This means that Council could move ahead some projects that were not budgeted for this year.”

Right now, he said the department is waiting to open the paving tender to see if there are extra savings over the approved 2018 budget. Nonetheless, he added that the money should be allotted to projects by May.

The new Conflict of Interest regulations will be kicking in on March 1 next year, but with the possibility of becoming a lame duck looming, UCPR council needs to have all of its ducks in a row—i.e. hiring an Integrity Commissioner and alloting the appropriate funding—before election season kicks off.