Lunenburg Council Replaces Deputy Mayor In Surprise Vote Based on Cornwallis Street Renaming Comments, Remote Meeting Attendance



(Lunenburg town hall. Photo: Jesse Ward)

Town of Lunenburg Council voted to remove the title of Deputy Mayor from Councillor Ed Halverson in a surprise vote on Tuesday, following an allegation from Councillor Peter Mosher that Halverson was not fulfilling his role appropriately.

The only example Mosher gave to allege Halverson had not fulfilled his role as Deputy Mayor appropriately – a position that Mosher himself nominated Halverson for just eight weeks ago – was that Halverson had attended three council meetings remotely via Zoom, instead of in person.

Without any further comments or discussion regarding Halverson’s performance in the role, the rest of council voted unanimously to remove him from the Deputy Mayor position, and to make Councillor Stephen Ernst the new Deputy Mayor.

In an interview with The Barnacle following the vote, Mosher explained his motivations for replacing Halverson as Deputy Mayor include Halverson publicly saying council “got it wrong” when they voted to rename Cornwallis Street to Queen Street in late November, and Halverson attending three consecutive council meetings remotely via Zoom instead of in person.

Speaking with The Barnacle on Wednesday, Halverson says he believes what happened “felt like censure” for the way he expressed his concerns about Council’s vote to rename Cornwallis Street to Queen Street, and he is “going to continue to be a voice for those whose voices are not represented at our table.”

Additionally, the vote that removed Halverson from the position of Deputy Mayor was a vote on an incomprehensible motion that was retroactively written out with different language than how it appeared on the floor by CAO Jamie Doyle based on assumption of Council’s intent, which appears to go against the Town of Lunenburg Procedural Policy on Council and Committee Meetings and Proceedings.

Mosher explains why he pursued removing Halverson from Deputy Mayor position

The Barnacle spoke with Mosher following the vote.

Asked to elaborate on why he raised the motion, Mosher said, “I felt he was being disrespectful to the mayor and council, and that’s not the role that job’s intended for.”

Asked to expand on how Halverson’s behaviour had been disrespectful to the mayor and council, Mosher said: “Not attending meetings. Not just here, but other meetings that the mayor holds regularly. And on some decisions Council has made, he has been very vocal publicly with his discontent with Council.”

Mosher continued to say, specifically, Halverson’s comments to media about Council’s November decision to rename Cornwallis Street to Queen Street were disrespectful to Council.

The Barnacle spoke with Halverson via phone on Wednesday.

Halverson says he was “completely taken aback” by the decision on Tuesday and “had no idea it was coming.”

“What happened last night seemed to be the result – no one’s talked to me, so I can only surmise – but what happened last night seemed to be me to me the result of that vote on Cornwallis and Queen, and the way I expressed my concerns following that vote,” said Halverson. 

“What happened last night felt like censure. And I will say this – I was clear about my position on the name last year a year ago with our previous Mayor and when Peter Mosher was Deputy Mayor. And I’m going to continue to be a voice to those whose voices are not represented at our table. I’m not going to be silenced.”

Halverson says he is “disappointed in the rest of council,” saying, “Last night was the first time that I had any inkling that there was any dissatisfaction in anything I’ve said. Councillor Sanford, Councillor Duggan both supported me in the motion when we were voting on the renaming of Cornwallis.”

“We were at the staff Christmas Party before Christmas with Councillor Sanford, and Stephen, and not a word was mentioned. They’ve all got my number, I’m easy to find. So I’m very disappointed they didn’t talk to me. They didn’t ask any questions of me. This came out of left field, I had no idea this was coming.”

Mosher says Halverson’s public comment that council “got it wrong” with vote to rename Cornwallis Street to Queen Street was disrespectful to council – Halverson responds: “We got it wrong”

Asked about which of Halverson’s public comments he is referring to that are disrespectful, Mosher said, “With regards to the Cornwallis Street renaming.”

“He’s entitled to his opinion,” said Mosher. “When he states that council got it wrong, that’s where it’s being disrespectful.” 

At the Nov. 28 meeting of Council, Council voted 4-3 to rename Lunenburg’s Cornwallis Street to Queen Street, based on a report consisting of pie charts that The Barnacle discovered misrepresented the survey data they were purported to represent. 

Based on a Freedom of Information Request for the data underlying the charts, The Barnacle reported in December that while the graphics were explicitly described in a report to council as representing “the results of nine rounds of elimination using a ranked ballot system” – they were actually only showing the first-preference choices of survey participants in Town who voted on their first, second and third preferences for a new name for Cornwallis Street.

It was Councillor Peter Mosher who put forward the motion to proceed with Queen, saying: “The fly in the ointment for me is whether I like the name Queen Street or not. We did send it out to the public, and we did vote on it. And that is overwhelmingly the majority out of the different scenarios presented to us.”

However, while the pie charts showed the name “Queen” did have the biggest single slice of the pie – “Queen” was just one of nine options, the rest of which were either Mi’kmaq terms, or “Reconciliation”. The seven Mi’kmaq terms, combined, had more votes than Queen – under no scenario presented did “Queen” have a majority of votes.

On Dec. 7, Mayor Jamie Myra released a statement acknowledging that based on community feedback on the vote, the Town is pausing the renaming process. “We are committed to creating a positive relationship with our Indigenous Partners and have asked for their advice on this matter. Until we have had a meaningful dialogue with them, we will take no further action on renaming Cornwallis Street,” reads the statement.

For a full breakdown of the Cornwallis vote, read our story: Lunenburg confirms report informing Council on Cornwallis Street renaming misrepresented survey data and omitted 103 comments

During the Nov. 28 meeting, leading up to the vote, Halverson said that replacing Cornwallis Street with Queen Street would go against the point of the decision to rename the street.

“I can’t reconcile naming a street, where we remove the name of someone who was a representative of the Crown, for tremendous acts, and then proposing to rename it after the Crown he was representing. It makes no sense, so I think we need to take Queen Street out of consideration,” said Halverson.

The following day, in an interview with the CBC, when Halverson was asked about his perspective on the vote, he said: “I did not support the name Queen. Not speaking for the Town, but speaking for myself, I don’t think we got it right.”

Speaking with The Barnacle, Halverson replied to Mosher’s allegation that his comments to media were disrespectful.

“Every elected official is available to talk to media. That’s part of being answerable to your constituents. As far as a concern about saying we were getting it wrong – we got it wrong. And it’s been shown we got it wrong,” said Halverson.

“The town has reacted that we got it wrong, because – you notice there’s no Queen Street sign going up there. The Mayor has made a public statement to say Queen Street is not going up. There will be consultation with Indigenous leaders before we move ahead any further. That’s one side of what went wrong.”

“The other side of what went wrong was in the way that the vote was constructed. Your own newspaper showed the vote was watered down. If you start actually tabulating how many people wanted an Indigenous name and how many people wanted Queen Street, the overwhelming majority wanted an Indigenous name.” 

“The problem was, so many Indigenous name options were presented that it split the vote, and Queen came up the middle to win. So, yes, the process – we got wrong. There’s no shame in admitting you got something wrong. The aim is that you do better. We’re all human, we all make mistakes. There’s no shame in that. We’re working towards a solution now, and that’s the outcome we’ve had from all this.”

Additionally, Halverson is not the only person on Council who publicly made this comment.

In an interview with the CBC on the same topic, Mayor Jamie Myra also explicitly said the Town of Lunenburg “got it wrong.”

The Dec. 6 CBC story, “‘Alternate options’ to be discussed for new Cornwallis Street name, Lunenburg mayor says”, quotes Myra: “Putting Queen Street on there to begin with wasn’t one of the wiser moves that we’ve ever made as a group … I think we’ve all accepted the fact that we probably got this one wrong.”

Mosher says Halverson has not attended meetings with Mayor and CAO – Halverson says he either attended the meetings, or they were cancelled

Asked to describe what meetings Halverson has not attended, Mosher said Halverson has not been attending the weekly meeting he is expected to attend with the Mayor and the CAO.

Asked about this meeting, Halverson said he doesn’t know where Mosher is getting that information from.

“There is a meeting between the Mayor, CAO and the Deputy Mayor. I’ve only been in the role for seven weeks. Three of those were over the Christmas holidays,” said Halverson.

“The first meeting, the CAO forgot to include me in the call. I think the CAO cancelled a meeting for a personal reason, the Mayor cancelled one or two for a personal reason. And we’ve had two meetings. I’ve never been unavailable, I’ve been available for every meeting they put forward.”

Mosher says appearing at meetings remotely is disrespectful, did not ask Halverson why he attended meetings remotely

The Barnacle asked Mosher why he believes that showing up remotely to a council meeting translates to disrespect for council.

Mosher said: “Up until COVID, you had to be at a meeting in order to have a voice. That’s just changed recently. That’s the point of municipal government – you’re part of your community. So if you’re not here, you’re not actively involved – you’re not actively accessible. You’re not going to be effective at bringing those ideas to the table.”

Halverson has regularly attended council meetings in person over his term on council, however, Tuesday’s meeting was the third consecutive meeting where he appeared remotely via Zoom.

Mosher said he has not talked to Halverson about why he has attended the last few meetings remotely, “but we’ve had exchanges on other issues.” 

While attending the last three meetings remotely, Halverson has still been a vocal presence at council – earlier in Tuesday’s meeting, he posed several questions about a proposed 2024/25 capital budget to Town staff.

The Barnacle asked Halverson for his perspective on whether it is disrespectful for a Deputy Mayor to attend meetings remotely. 

Halverson said, “Well, this is the first I’m hearing it’s a problem. In the Municipal Government Act, it clearly outlines that Council can attend remotely. And every one of the Councillors has done so in the past.”

Asked for comment on why he has attended the last three Council meetings remotely, Halverson said: “I have a contract job that required me to be outside of Lunenburg over the last few weeks, but I made sure I was in attendance at every meeting, remotely, as per the MGA, because I want to make sure I am engaged and answering to the constituents, and upholding my duties.”

Deputy Mayor was voted out based on an incomprehensible motion retroactively changed based on CAO’s interpretation

You can watch how the discussion went down in this recording of the meeting published by the Town of Lunenburg, starting at the 1:04:31 timestamp:

The events started when Councillor Peter Mosher raised the topic to Council during the meeting’s “Notices of Motion” segment, saying he wanted to raise a non-confidence motion: “I believe that the Deputy Mayor’s role is one that supports the Mayor and Council. Councillor Halverson has displayed anything but this type of behaviour since his nomination in November.”

“As an example, he has not even attended one single meeting in person since he has been nominated. So, I would like to know what process I can bring forward tonight to remove Councillor Halverson from the position of Deputy Mayor, and replace him with someone who will fulfill the role appropriately and respectfully.”

Immediately following Mosher’s request, Mayor Jamie Myra called a ten-minute recess.

CAO Jamie Doyle said he and staff would use the ten-minute recess to “chat through the Municipal Government Act as well as internal policies,” and return with an informed answer on how Mosher’s request could proceed.

Doyle came back with the suggestion that Council could pass four motions to replace the Deputy Mayor: a motion to waive the one-meeting’s notice typically required to put a motion on the floor, a motion to amend the motion that determined the term of the Deputy Mayor to shorten the term to the present day, another motion to waive a notice of motion, and then a motion to elect a new Deputy Mayor.

Halverson contested this process, alleging it was out of order, since the Municipal Government Act states a term must be defined for a Deputy Mayor, and his term was for one year.

Doyle replied that the Act has no provision for whether or how you can amend this term, though, so he was relying on the procedural guidebook of Robert’s Rules of Order to determine that a motion already passed to declare a term for a Deputy Mayor could be amended.

Council proceeded through four votes, with the rest of Council not speaking to Halverson’s performance or suitability as Deputy Mayor or acknowledging Mosher’s comments.

One of the motions was incomprehensible.

Leading up to Council’s second vote, Mayor Jamie Myra said: “Now, according to the CAO, the next step if we’re going to proceed in this fashion is to amend the original motion on November 23rd [sic]. So, is there anybody prepared to amend the motion?”

As it stands alone, this statement is impossible to interpret as a motion. 

Council did not meet on November 23, 2023.

Intuitively, it seems the Mayor was referring to what the CAO had said earlier – Council could raise a motion to amend the motion from the November 14, 2023 meeting to amend the Deputy Mayor’s term to end on January 9 – but this would only be an inference to something else, and this information was not in the motion on the floor.

The motion on the floor, explicitly, seems to have been: “a motion to amend the original motion on November 23rd,” which is incomprehensible, and would have no impact on anything if it passed as it is.

However, no one discussed this. Councillor Susan Sanford nominated Peter Mosher as Deputy Mayor, who declined and nominated Stephen Ernst, who the rest of Council other than Halverson voted to make Deputy Mayor.

The Barnacle reached out to CAO Jamie Doyle by email asking what specific motion was being voted on during the second vote.

Doyle replied: “At the Jan. 9, 2024 meeting, I presented the following motions for Council’s consideration:

  • That Council agree to waive the required notice to amend the motion which appointed Councillor Halverson as Deputy Mayor.
  • That Council amend the motion previously adopted at the Nov. 14, 2023, meeting which stated that Council appoint Councillor Halverson as Deputy Mayor until the last meeting of Council before the 2024 municipal election to change the term of the Deputy Mayor appointment to Jan. 9, 2024.  This motion is presented at 1:08:58 of the meeting recording.”

The Barnacle followed up with Doyle asking whether this motion was written and shared with Council before their vote: “That Council amend the motion previously adopted at the Nov. 14, 2023, meeting which stated that Council appoint Councillor Halverson as Deputy Mayor until the last meeting of Council before the 2024 municipal election to change the term of the Deputy Mayor appointment to Jan. 9, 2024.  This motion is presented at 1:08:58 of the meeting recording.”

Doyle replied: “Council voted and passed with intent, what I had described.

My interpretation of Tuesday’s motions is based on the advice and suggested motions that I provided prior to them making their motions. As all councillors, with the exception of Councillor Halverson, voted in favour of the motions and did not ask for clarification on what they were voting for, while the motions read out loud by the Mayor ahead of the vote may not be clear, my interpretation is that Council’s intent was to vote on the advice that I suggested.

Additionally, in my opinion, Council’s intent on Councillor Ernst’s Deputy Mayor appointment was to extend until the last Council meeting prior to the next election. 

If Council has any requirement for further clarification, this discussion can be held prior to approving the minutes at the next regularly scheduled meeting

 In short – I believe Council knew what they were voting for – regardless if Mayor Myra mistakenly said November 23.”

Lunenburg’s own Procedural Policy on Council and Committee Meetings and Proceedings, under the header “Conduct of Meetings: Motions and Voting”, does not appear to make any provision for defining motions retroactively based on assumption of intent.

Point 21 in this policy reads: “The Chair shall state every question properly presented to Council if no Councillor offers to speak, the Chair shall put the question, after which no Councillor shall be permitted to speak upon it.”

Point 24 reads:  “A motion must be seconded and then repeated by the Chair or read aloud by the Clerk before it is debated. The Chair may direct that the motion be put in writing, repeated, displayed or read aloud by the Clerk before it is debated or voted on.”

In the events that unfolded Tuesday, a motion was stated and read aloud, but it is different than the motion that Doyle emailed The Barnacle, which was apparently not put in writing and was not read aloud on Tuesday, but has been decided was the motion that passed.


Comments

12 responses to “Lunenburg Council Replaces Deputy Mayor In Surprise Vote Based on Cornwallis Street Renaming Comments, Remote Meeting Attendance”

  1. Thank you for this excellent reporting. Amid this Council chaos, Lunenburg is so fortunate to have The Barnacle!

  2. Janet Corkum

    Once again you have done a superb job of reporting. Once again I am so impressed with the work you have done to dig up this information. Superb job !

  3. Publius

    This is good in depth reporting.

    However, I believe you make too much of the procedure. Council’s intent was clear. If they wanted to vote out the Deputy Mayor and vote in someone new, they could have sat there all night and gotten the procedure correct, but what would that change? Not the outcome. It was clear what they were voting for; no one was mislead into voting Halverson out.

    As for his absences, Deputy Mayor is not a work from home role. He shouldn’t have accepted the role of he can’t be physically present.

    I note you spoke to him by phone. Where was he for that interview? Was he even in town?

    The occasional absence is understandable, but taking on the role of Deputy Mayot when you have a contact job in Halifax or wherever that precludes you from attending meetings is inexcusable. The honorable thing to do would have been to step down.

    It will be interesting to see if Halverson runs again, whether he will even be eligible as per the MGA.

    1. Jesse Ward

      Hi “Publius”, thank you for your feedback.

      I’ll share why I expanded on the procedure behind Tuesday’s votes: a vote occurred one on motion, and then that motion was retroactively rewritten to have a different wording and meaning. This falls completely outside of the Town’s policy that defines how motions must be presented. I would agree that everyone who participated in the second vote understood its intention to be the motion that Jamie Doyle later presented to our newspaper in writing, but that explicitly was not the motion people were voting on. I believe it is newsworthy for a precedent to be set that motions can be retroactively defined in a process that falls outside of any policy.

      Regarding the interview with Halverson by phone: I emailed him around 9 p.m. on Tuesday evening and he replied shortly after. I would have called him directly but it was late – I could have called him immediately following the council meeting. I asked to schedule a phone call interview because that was most convenient for me. I don’t know where he physically was and did not consider that to be important.

  4. Alison F Strachan

    I agree with “Probius” but if it’s a matter for a Court to determine as has been suggested by some in the community, will wait for that to come. As someone who almost always attends meetings, I can say that it is disconcerting to have Councillor Halverson on a screen facing us when the other Councillors do not have that presence as they sit around the “dias” for lack of a better word of council chambers. It does seem disrespectful to those council members who have missed supper with their families or who have left work early to attend in person and those who are missing children’s homework and sporting activities.

    Am I the only one concerned about whether there were strict Zoom controls in place to guarantee confidentiality during closed matters?

    This isn’t a “since he became Deputy Mayor” thing. I can only recall two meetings out of the six or so we’ve had this Fall where I saw Councillor Halverson attend in person. This limits access to him from the public as we often see occurring between citizens and council members.

    I understand accommodation or pandemic rules, but knowing that other councillors have made every effort to attend – some leaving work in the City early, others missing sporting events with their children, and others missing family meals together does cast a shadow over someone who doesn’t attend on an almost regular basis.

    No one who knows me would disagree that I was probably the most vocal and incensed resident about the “Street With No Name” process and vote outcome in Town. Certainly, my Facebook comments and my comments on your earlier stories would confirm this. But my role is as an ally not as a councillor.

    There is a general rule in municipal politics (and certainly on Boards that I have sat on and currently sit on) that debate ends with a vote.

    While I may agree with some of his thoughts, speaking out publicly against a decision after it has been made creates mistrust and anger and can pit Councillors against one another.

    Continuing to disagree with a decision can also confuse residents of your community. I’m not pointing a finger at him and I praise him for his almost immediate condemnation once the Mayor was targeted by an anonymous poster appearing in Town.

    That poster alone was an example of “mistrust and anger” that can arise in those situations.

    My larger fear was that there would be lashing out at the Mi’kmaq community (sorry Your Worship, I did worry about you too) and misplaced anger directed at specific residents and very important Mi’kmaq business in Town.

    The public was aware on that evening of the Street vote that Councillor Halverson disagreed and the Barnacle did the right thing by following up on accessing the comments from the public (including those of myself) that were seemingly suppressed from the decision-makers’ minds.

    There was an alternative to Councillor Halverson choosing a media presence and that was to use his voice to bring forward a Motion for Reconsideration.

    That is typically what happens at seasoned Municipal Councils and Boards across the country when there is disagreement with a significant issue.

    But I don’t think any of us can honestly say that it is because of Councillor Halverson’s stance on “No-Name Street” that was exclusive to the removal of Deputy Mayor.

    I’m happy to hear that Mr. Halverson has secured a position with the Liberal Party as per allnovascotia.com

    1. Jesse Ward

      Hi Alison,

      Regarding remote meeting attendance patterns: minutes for council in 2023 record whether Councillors attended by Zoom or in person. Minutes show that Halverson attended the last two meetings of the year via Zoom, as well as the October 10 meeting. Every other meeting was in person. Councillor Duggan appeared via Zoom on August 8 and Councillor Sanford appeared via Zoom on October 24.

      I respect you sharing your perspective and welcome your feedback here.

      My perspective is that it made sense, from a factual perspective, for a Councillor to have made public comments that Council “got it wrong” voting on Queen Street, based on the premise that was presented at the meeting where that decision was made.

      The Councillor who raised the motion to rename the street Queen said that option had a majority of votes. Under none of the scenarios presented did it have a majority of votes. I am aware no Councillor addressed this point during the conversation that led to the vote. But following the vote, it would only be logical to say, “we got it wrong” – the rationale they followed to vote on this name was based on an inaccuracy.

      I have heard from a significant number of people in town that they were very happy to hear a Councillor publicly said they “got it wrong”, based on the fact that looking at the data supplied to council shows that Queen was not actually desired by the majority. People who agreed with this statement felt glad their perspective was represented, and that this perspective being represented was one factor that led to the Town reconsidering proceeding with the renaming.

      Best,
      Jesse

      1. Alison F Strachan

        I’m glad you’ve heard that. We also heard it from the Mayor addressing constituents via FB and many who publicly went on the “Facebook” record. However, I don’t feel that’s part of the issue in the big picture. A unanimous vote by Council is fairly significant. We cannot know the particulars of their loss of confidence and I suspect each comes from a different perspective.

        Perhaps folks interested in T&R will tune in and read what I write on the lack of T&R when it comes to Blockhouse Hill. We’re revving the engines of bulldozers with total disregard of that issue despite it being raised at the “consultation” with the public.

        Maybe my concern also about Zoom confidentiality is something to ferret out or is there even a policy? I certainly cannot find one. It’s a developing area of Board Governance law at this time and fairly important for constituents, employees, land purchasers, and anyone else affected by closed meetings at this point.

        -A

  5. Alison F Strachan

    *Publius

    Sorry for that name mix up.

  6. Wendy

    Halverson is entitled to oppose council decisions. This is a democracy. If opposing decisions, particularly the one in question, is punishable by removal from an elected post, we are in big trouble.
    Further, remotely attending meetings should be more than fine.
    Not only are we in an era of truth and reconciliation, we are also in a climate crisis generated by our relentless refusal to curb fossil fuels and carbon emissions.
    So if someone chooses to attend a meeting remotely – they have chosen not to drive a round trip. We should get used to this and encourage a policy that within reason, does not make it punishable, shameful, or lacking in any way.

  7. thom barclay

    Jesse, I enjoy reading the Barnacle and most generally your reporting to date has been fair and unbiased. With all due respect here is where I think a lot of people are missing the mark. Those that don’t like the result of the vote are assuming that they are in the majority, and hence have been wronged in some way. The tone and tenor of both your reporting and emailed responses to questions, say loudly that you have shifted from being apolitical and it reads more like an opinion piece or letter to the editor. What is being left out is the fact that 2 parks have already been re-named in the name of T & R. This issue is grinding up way too much oxygen as it is and it also isn’t a zero sum game. In this case something doesn’t have to be taken from one group in order to be given to another. Queen fits perfectly with Duke, Prince and King in my opinion and to those that disagree, I would suggest that a plebiscite be held on this issue so a real majority makes the decision. People can and will have to live with that. Why council thinks they need or even want to decide instead of throwing the ball in the public’s court is beyond me.

  8. anonymous

    It is 2024. If you feel like you need a person to physically be there to hear you, you’re stuck in the past.

    Attending three council meetings over Zoom was a convenient excuse for the Lunenburg Council because they didn’t like Ed’s opinion.

  9. […] can read about this in detail in our January 12 story, Lunenburg Council Replaces Deputy Mayor In Surprise Vote Based on Cornwallis Street Renaming Comment…, under the header “Deputy Mayor was voted out based on an incomprehensible motion […]

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