A few municipal election candidates attended the WN Police Services Board meeting on Sept. 20, while others declined the invitation.
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by Isabel Mosseler
In an unusual move, the WN Police Services Board invited all WN municipal election candidates to their regular meeting of Thursday, Sept. 20, however most declined to attend. Two of the four mayoral candidates, Russ Dunne and Joanne Savage, were on hand, as were 8 of the 22 ward candidates: Lise Senecal, Pierre Deforge, Denis Boisvenue, Christopher Fisher, Christopher Anderson, Jeremy Seguin, Denis Senecal and Paul Finley, who sat at the board table as a member. Candidate Jamie Restoule, who also sits on the police board, was not present as he was out of town. None of the current sitting councilors, except the mayor, were present.
Board chair Barry Bertrand told the invitees that the meeting was being held under the board’s mandate to educate the public. The invitation was nonetheless characterized by some candidates as highly irregular, having never been done in anyone’s recollection. While the board’s regular meetings are public, they are not widely publicized and special invitations to attend are not usually extended. Given the current climate, with the board opposing the transition to OPP and delaying the process until after the election, policing has now become a campaign issue and some candidates felt uneasy attending, considering that it may be an attempt to influence them in relation to policing.
Mayoral candidate Ron Demers decided not to go. He noted that educating candidates on board and committee roles usually takes place after they have been elected, not before. Demers says he communicated his concern to the Ontario Civilian Policing Commission (OCPC) because of his discomfort, questioning the propriety of the invite. “After I got the invitation, I got back in touch with Chief St-Pierre’s office and left a message to advise him I was not comfortable with the invitation. I thought, and still think, elected officials, and especially candidates, should be arm’s length and further from the police board and police officers. I declined and did so politely.”
Mayoral candidate Don Leblanc said he would have attended but had another commitment. “It’s a strong issue and I would have 100% been there but I had a family issue and was at the hospital.”