Nearly two months after this year's municipal election nominations were opened at Elliot Lake city hall, Counc. Chris Patrie remains the city's only registered unofficial candidate for mayor.
That, even though Mayor Dan Marchisella has publicly stated he plans to stand for re-election.
Four people are also looking for a spot on Elliot Lake city council. All of them are newcomers except Tammy Van Roon, who served as a councillor in the 2014 term. They include Tammy Brown, Gary Kirk and Richard Laurin.
Patrie still doesn't know when his court case will be heard, which stems from a charge laid by former city Integrity Commissioner E4m in 2019.
He says, "I have spoken to my lawyers, and they believe the delay is because of the hard questions that we have asked E4m.
"They say, 'How can I be found guilty if I didn't vote at the March 6 (council) meeting,' " he went on.
By early July, Patrie plans to ramp up his campaign for the council's top job.
When asked why this time he decided to go for the brass ring this time around instead of looking to make a return as councillor, Patrie said, "I have decided to run for mayor this term because I think the voices of the people need to be heard, and we as a city have to start moving on infrastructure repair, like road surfaces.”
"We have to get our theatre and museum rebuilt. I would like to see a council that is professional and cohesive,” he added.
Patrie favours whatever changes in the municipal voting system that could benefit his constituents. Part of that process, he believes, would be achieved by conducting advance polls for a longer period of time.
"I would to see all processes that can encourage voter turnout safely to benefit the democratic process,” Patrie says.
We asked him a number of other questions and that exchange follows.
ElliotLakeToday: What qualities and attributes does he believe voters should look for when they consider their choices for mayor and the six other members of the council?
Patrie: I would appreciate the electors looking at (a) candidates' business knowledge and electing members that want to benefit the community as a whole.
ElliotLakeToday: Do you feel that current mandatory training for newly elected councillors is appropriate and adequate?
Patrie: I believe that training requirements aren't strict enough and that all members of council should take the provincial training on processes and regulations, and be certified.
Council is an arm of provincial legislation, and a strong knowledge of the system is important so that proper process is followed.
This term, Elliot Lake council returned to the standing committee model after a Committee of the Whole experiment, adopted earlier in the four-year period, was discontinued.
ElliotLakeToday: What do you think about further refinements?
Patrie: There should be some changes to the committee systems. The selection process should have specific criteria specifying the process and procedure for members.
Volunteers are the backbone of every community, and I believe if you give them enough knowledge on our process and respect them, they will honour our municipality with their time and knowledge.
ElliotLakeToday: It's always difficult for councillors to vote themselves a raise, and so most municipal councillors in Ontario remain notoriously underpaid, even if the job is considered part-time.
Do you feel there should be a wage review for Elliot Lake council this year?
Patrie: Council remuneration for 2022 has been set, and it is to be re-assessed at the beginning of the (next) council term. I don't think at this time of the year that should change.
ElliotLakeToday: What can we learn from the pandemic? Specifically, Canadian municipalities, including Elliot Lake, have had to find many different ways of doing things over the past two and a half years.
As health authorities and governments at all levels, are dealing with waves of COVID-19 infection which also put pressure on local elected officials, staff and administration. In hindsight, what could have been done differently or better?
Patrie: COVID-19 has created many issues from staffing and service-related problems. I wish that the federal government would have just set one set of parameters that would have stood for the entire country to keep conformity.
ElliotLakeToday: You are still dealing with the Integrity Commissioner (IC) regime and process. Several other members of the present council were impacted, too, particularly by the investigations carried out by the city's former IC, E4m of Sault Ste. Marie.
Do you believe anybody is being well served by the present system?
Patrie: There are many serious issues with the current IC process, from the issue of an IC not having to be certified by law to them not having to know the Ontario Municipal Act.
I don't think any complaint from the public is frivolous, but the IC should know which ones don't warrant merit, which I believe our current commissioner (Robert Swayze) is, does and has.
One of the most volatile issues that the council has had to deal with this year was pushed back following the presentation of the suggested sale of Elliot Lake's municipal golf course to a Hamilton-based development company.
What went wrong?
Patrie: Yes, I believe the golf course issue could have been dealt with better for transparency.
Staff and council could have brought a report to council or committee stating simply that there is a party interested in purchasing with the offer attached, in getting direction.
This report would have been dealt with in transparency and in public. Staff could have been in much better shape knowing the feelings of the people of the municipality that owns it (Stone Ridge Golf Course).
When a process like this takes nearly two months, I think it is much wiser to advise the people of the municipality of the possibility of such a major decision prior to having to discuss matters in (council) closed session where portions may need to be discussed.
The final day that nominations can be filed by people planning to run for municipal office or trustee on local school boards in this year's Oct. 24 vote is Aug. 19, at 2 p.m.
Full candidate information and nomination papers locally can be found here.