Iqaluit city councillor quits, gives no public reason
"The current side show is a self-serving matter and not in the best interest of the city"
(Updated May 5, 3:05 p.m.)
Iqaluit city councillor Gideonie Joamie has resigned from his seat on Iqaluit’s city council, effective May 5.
In a news release dated May 5, Iqaluit mayor Madeline Redfern expressed surprise and disappointment over Coun. Joamie’s tendered resignation, issued to the City May 4.
“It is unfortunate he has chosen to leave, especially since he had been so committed to helping the City deal with its financial situation, advocating for more efficient and stream-lined delivery of our programs and services,” Redfern said in the release.
In an email to fellow councillors, leaked to Nunatsiaq News, Joamie explained some misgivings he has about the mayor and the functioning of the current council.
“Council was told we must act in the best interest of the City in our proceedings and public discourse,” he wrote.
“The current side show is a self serving matter and not in the best interest of the City in that the Mayor made a public statement she would forgo benefits that the employees negotiated and the indemnity by-law doesn’t show Mayor is entitled.”
Joamie is referring to the last council meeting April 26 when administrators brought forward a bylaw amendment to give the mayor two vacation travel allowances or VTAs — which amount to two return flights out of the territory for vacation.
During that council meeting, Joamie was critical of the proposed bylaw amendment, considering the city is in tense negotiations with it’s employees over a new collective bargaining agreement.
“I don’t see this being tied to a future CBA. The administration has made their demands, and this is counter to that demand,” he said April 26.
After heated debate — and in the absence of Redfern who was on holidays at the time — councillors sent the amendment back to administrators in order to have that benefit removed.
The controversy turns on whether the VTA benefit was voted on and approved by councillors when they decided to make the mayor’s job full time in 2012.
Administrators, along with Redfern, say it was. But that information is not contained in the minutes of that 2012 council meeting and some councillors remain skeptical that it was ever discussed.
In his resignation email to councillors and administrators, Joamie said he encourages council to “act on matters based on facts and not from foggy memory and/or statements such as, ‘it was the intention of council’ etc.”
But Joamie appears to have been miffed by other issues at city council as well.
At last week’s council meeting, Joamie stated he was “taken aback” when he discovered — through Twitter no less — that an Iqaluit employee had been gravely injured on the job a week prior and was recovering in hospital. He was surprised city staff had not taken the time to inform councillors.
“At least brief us,” he said of the accident.
Joamie was elected as a first-time city councillor during a general municipal election Oct. 19, 2015.
He received 1,155 votes in that election, according to results on IQvotes.ca, placing seventh in a nine-candidate field that filled eight city council seats.
Redfern informed Nunatsiaq News that Joamie’s vacant seat “will be discussed and decided by council.”
Several options are available to councillors when that discussion takes place.
Councillors may choose to hold a bylection for the seat, as they did in 2013, when Noah Papatsie was elected to fill the then-vacant seat left by the late Jimmy Kilabuk.
Or, they can move to appoint another candidate from the last election, as they did in 2014 when Stephen Mansell replaced outgoing councillor Mark Morrissey, who resigned.
That’s certainly the cheaper option.
Iqaluit resident Lynda Gunn, a former city councillor, is the only candidate who ran in the Oct. 19 election without winning a seat on council, narrowly losing to Coun. Simon Nattaq by only 18 votes.
In her statement, Redfern added that the city is losing a valuable spokesperson for fiscal responsibility.
“Councillor Joamie made valuable contributions to council debates and decisions in his short term. He was an avid promoter of privatizing public works and reducing staff positions as a way for the city to save money and tackle our deficit,” the mayor said in the City’s statement.
“The City of Iqaluit council has a very difficult job to do in this term and it’s important that we remain fully committed and focused on our goals and objective,” the mayor said.
“I wish all the best to Gideonie Joamie.”
This is just the latest in a series of problems plaguing those who run Nunavut’s capital.
The City has cut back on its services, including issuing a wage freeze to city employees, in efforts to reduce its estimated $8.5 million deficit.
But one of those policies, the City’s unpopular trucked-water service reduction on Wednesdays, was repealed by councillors April 26.
The next council meeting is scheduled for May 10.
With files from Steve Ducharme and Lisa Gregoire