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Wacko wonders why Wall was punished by press

Evan Matthews | reporter@fitzhugh.ca

And just like that, it was over.

At its Oct. 10 Committee of the Whole meeting, council left time to say its goodbyes and closing remarks.

Most did not disappoint, as each councillor thanked their fellow council members — including the late Vonna Arsenault — staff and administration.

The councillors took what could be each of their last opportunities to say something meaningful as a member of Jasper’s municipal council.

Councillor Dwain Wacko

Finishing his second term, Coun. Wacko started by speaking to Councillor Gilbert Wall directly.

“Gilbert seven years ago you and I were newcomers. I feel a sense of kinship,” he said.

Coun. Wacko spoke of the rainbow crosswalk being one of the more challenging issues to come across the council table in his time as a public servant.

He went on to describe conversations between the two prior to the (public) crosswalk debate, and suggested he and Coun. Wall had agreed a more philosophical discussion on the topic needed to take place.

“I am sorry for the response and treatment Councillor Wall received for his question of, ‘Why?’ It could, perhaps, have been both of us who were vilified by the press. Or perhaps the reaction would have been tempered. Gilbert, I apologize, as you bore the worst of those attacks.”

Coun. Wacko thanked Mayor Ireland for giving credit where appropriate.

“I so admire your ability to see much deeper into issues,” of the mayor.

“Our community is so fortunate to have you at the head of the table for so many years, and for at least four more. You lead by example and with your eloquent discourse,” he said, describing it as an honour to serve with him.

Councillor Helen

Kelleher-Empey

Coun. Kelleher-Empey thanked all of her fellow members of council.

“It’s been a pleasure to serve with you… Thank you,” said Coun. Kelleher-Empey.

“I am up for re-election, so I hope to be joining Mayor Ireland and hopefully Councillor Damota will be back. If not, I am so proud,” she said.

Councillor Brian Nesbitt

Also finishing his second term, though not consecutive, Coun. Nesbitt said he was stepping away from council with slight trepidation.

“I know last time I stepped away I missed it,” he said. “I’m sure I will miss it again.”

Coun. Nesbitt said out of his two terms, this past council was the most enjoyable to be a part of.

“We had a lot of fun. We faced our challenges together, and we’ve done a lot of good,” said Coun. Nesbitt.

“When you look at a lot of the work and progress made by this council and staff… It makes me proud,” he said.

Councillor Rico Damota

Coun. Damota said he has been honoured to serve with his fellow members of council.

“I swore I wasn’t going to cry today… You started it,” said Coun. Damota to Coun. Wacko.

“But it just goes to how close we’ve become in such a short time,” he said, adding the four years flew by due to the camaraderie developed by the council.

“It’s been an honour.”

Councillor Gilbert Wall

Coun. Wall did some math to start the conversation.

“Between Coun. Arsenault, Coun. Wacko, Coun. Nesbitt and myself, it represents some 240 odd years of community. Within those 240 years of community, there is roughly 55 years of community service,” said Coun. Wall.

“This cohort of people have been at the forefront of trying to do all the good things in communities like ours… They shouldn’t be vilified in the process… and they sure shouldn’t be victims of a two year, 15-point plan.”

Coun. Wall thanked his fellow council members for being a cohesive unit, and said a unanimous vote isn’t a symbol of a broken council, but rather a healthy one.

“By the time something comes to the table, councillors have already hashed it out and come to a consensus… There isn’t a lot of eye poking at this table,” said Coun. Wall. “To move that a step further, municipal elections are as much about how you’d like to be governed as opposed to the issues at hand… When I went to the All Candidates Forum, I can proudly say when looking at the list of candidates that I see a bunch of people I’d like to be governed by. I also see a few I wouldn’t like to be governed by… But that’s for the people to decide.”

Coun. Wall said he’d miss all of his fellow council members, staff and administration, but mainly, Mayor Ireland, as the two developed a “pretty special friendship” over their term on council.

Mayor Richard Ireland

Mayor Ireland said in his nine terms, he had never witnessed a council have a  “final comments” portion on its final agenda.

“The relationship at this table, and the relationship between this table and staff are both as healthy as I have ever seen,” said Ireland, reminding the gallery this was the first four-year term since provincial legislation changed.

Mayor Ireland, similarly to Coun. Wall, did some math for his closing remark.

“Forty-eight months of service means 96 regular council meetings, 96 Committee of the Whole meetings — so just under 200 meetings — and we have intergovernmental meetings, and each councillor has a minimum of three other committees they sit on,” said Ireland.

“Collectively we’ve sat together in excess of 200 times… It’s an incredible commitment and I thank you all for that.”

Mayor Ireland said he recognized certain councillors did “heavier lifting than others,” but that the council assigned work based on need and availability.

“I absolutely respect that… councillors did it without complaint because they were available and the work needed to be done,” he said.

Mayor Ireland to date had not weighed in (publicly) on the election, but took time to address it, as he said he “is a citizen, too.”

“I hope it is not lost on the community… The importance of a respectful and collaborative group at this table… I care about our community and I care about who serves on council,” said Ireland.

“Anybody can kick down a door, or burn down a bridge. But it takes a much different skill set to build doors, to build bridges, and to maintain them.

“That’s the skillset this council needs. That’s the skillset that has been here.”

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