Non-confidence vote against Renfrew Town mayor

Renfrew Town Council has voted to pass a non-confidence motion against Mayor Tom Sidney, based on the leadership he demonstrated for the Ma-te-Way Expansion Project as former Chair of the Parks and Recreation Committee and as Mayor. Above: Mayor Tom Sidney listens to members of Renfrew Town Council discuss his leadership of the Ma-te-Way expansion project. Photo: YouTube/Renfrew Town Council

A press release from Rudy Kadlec, Communications & Engagement Coordinator for the Town of Renfrew, explains the impact of the vote. “A non-confidence motion is a way for members of Town Council to express their position,” explains Chief Administrative Officer Robert Tremblay. “Under the Municipal Act, Council does not have the authority to remove another sitting member and a vote of non-confidence does not impact the composition of Council. The mayor will retain his statutory duties under Section 225 of the Municipal Act including representing the Municipality at official functions and presiding over council meetings.”

Councillor John McDonald moved the non-confidence motion at the Council meeting on January 30th, 2024, and it passed in a recorded vote of four to three. Councillors John McDonald, Jason Legris, Andrew Dick, and Clint McWhirter voted in favour of the motion while Councillor Kyle Cybulski and Reeve Peter Emon joined Mayor Sidney in opposing it.

The motion came about after delivery of an interim report into a $5 million overrun and other issues with the Ma-te-Way expansion project, but the Council members opposing the motion wish to await the final report before analysing where any fault lies and what lessons must be learned.

In explaining his reasons for the motion, Councillor McDonald said that while Mayor Sidney was not the only one to be blamed for the Ma-te-Way issues, as part of the inner decision-making to implement the project he had not demonstrated the appropriate leadership. Against the advice of various professionals, Council entered into a contract “where there was no realistic deadline and no cap on expenses.” In short, McDonald said, “This was a total disregard for the proper stewardship of taxpayers’ money.” Councillor Legris said he supported the motion due to “the glaring absence of leadership, knowledge, and vision.” Councillor Dick’s vote was “about accountability and responsibility…. If this was his [the mayor’s] baby why did he know nothing about the project?” He ended his statement with “on the Ma-te-Way project only, I have lost confidence in our mayor.”  Councillor McWhirter supported the motion because he thought the mayor ought to have “had a plan.”

Councillor Cybulski, attending remotely via Zoom, felt the vote of non-confidence came too soon and he could not support it without an independent Third Party Review. He concluded by addressing Mayor Sidney, “As a leader I truly believe you have significant improvements to make and I hope you can make these regardless of the outcome tonight.” Reeve Emon also voted against the motion “because the report’s not here yet.” He said the motion was “worrisome” and could set a precedent. “I don’t like it because I think it’s too early and it’s not an established process. I think it could be abused.”

The debate concluded with Mayor Sidney promising his official statement after the official report arrives. He thanked his family for their support through the past month and said, “I look forward to continuing to serve this community,” and to learning more and receiving the final report so as to make an educated statement. He then asked the Clerk to call the vote.

Editor’s note: This article was corrected on Feb.1 2023 to reflect the fact that Councillor Cybulski, not Councillor McWhirter, attended the meeting remotely via Zoom. The Current apologizes for any confusion our error may have caused.

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