Skip to main content

Province boots mayor and council in small northern Ont. town out of office


An ongoing municipal strike, court battles and revolt by half of council has prompted the province to oust the mayor and council in Black-River Matheson.

In February, Ward 2 Coun. Keith Neal resigned, the third local councillor to do so this term.

In March, three other councillors began refusing to attend meetings in hopes of forcing a byelection.

And earlier this month, an agreement was reached to end a bitter six-month strike by municipal workers, but the deal was held up when the town refused to drop legal action and not take reprisals on staff for their conduct during the strike.

The union applied for a judicial review of the township’s conduct, claiming it violated Charter rights in February by banning CUPE members from town facilities.

Meanwhile, the township hired an investigator to determine whether union members have been displaying threatening and harmful behaviour.

Unwilling to call off the investigation, the town rejected the back-to-work protocol but stands by the settlement. It’s now appealing to the Ontario Labour Relations Board to order both parties to sign the deal.

With the chaos, Paul Calandra, the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing, has ordered the mayor and council to vacate their seats.

“It is the job of municipally elected councillors to ensure the continued provision of services for residents,” Calandra said in his letter.

“This includes attending council meetings and filling council vacancies as soon as possible. The absence of meetings impedes decision-making and negatively affects local residents.”

A byelection will be held to fill the vacant seats. Until then, Kathy Horgan, manager of local government and housing for the ministry’s northern regional office, has been appointed on an interim basis to exercise the duties and obligations of council.

“I intend to make a subsequent appointment of an individual who will exercise the duties and obligations of council,” the letter said.

“An appointee will be in place until the byelection is complete, and a new council is in place. The appointee will exercise the duties and obligations of council in an accountable and transparent manner.” 


The original article incorrectly stated Keith Neal was the second town councillor to resign, he is the third in the term. Dan DeMarchi resigned last year after council voted to raise property taxes more than 34 per cent and Kim Drurer also stepped down. Top Stories

Stay Connected