Ron Coristine resigns from council

Section: 
News

By Barb McKay

 

Kincardine councillor Ron Coristine has resigned from council, effective immediately, one day after stepping into his new job as executive director of PREDC.

 

Coristine made the announcement in a statement prior to last Wednesday’s council meeting.

 

“After much thought and reflection I have decided to resign my position on council,” he said. “Not because I have done anything wrong. Not because I could not put in the time and energy to perform well on council while in the position with the Penetangore Regional Economic Development Corporation. And definitely not because of any conflict of interest. I have decided to resign my position on council in order to devote myself fully to the cause of economic development and the betterment of this community for the future of our children and grandchildren.”

 

Coristine said he moved with his family to Kincardine at the time when Bruce Power shut down its reactor units at Bruce A. He said he came to realize that Kincardine is a community where there is good paying jobs and poor paying jobs, but not enough employment opportunities with a decent wage to raise a family. The need to improve economic development was one of the main reasons he ran for council in 2010, he said.

 

“I thought about how I could apply my education, background and experience to public life in order to make a positive contribution to the community,” Coristine said. “I chose to focus on promoting tourism and economic development as a means to bring investment and jobs on which young families could live decently.”

 

During his time on council, Coristine added, he has been a constant supporter of the PREDC because of its efforts to attract new investment in the community. When the corporation began its search for a new executive director, he said he did not consider applying for it. It wasn’t until a member of the business community asked him if he would apply that he began to think about it.

 

“It was a logical extension of what I was doing,” he said. “I am familiar with the community. I have worked on various economic development initiatives. I have education and experience in management and community development. If I was successful, the PREDC would have hired someone local, instead of bringing in someone from somewhere else. It would be one small step on the road to using local talent and strengthening our capacity as a community.”

 

Coristine said he gave serious thought to whether he could continue his role on council after assuming his new job.

 

“I became aware that some questions were raised in the community as to whether my work with PREDC would put me in a position of conflict of interest.”

 

He said he contacted two law firms and the office of the Conflict of Interest Commissioner of Ontario and was told by all three that it “was not a conflict of interest to be employed by a corporation that is funded in part by the municipality.” Under conflict of interest requirements, Coristine would be expected to recuse himself from decisions related to PREDC.

 

“Both lawyers advised that I should not even think about resigning from council on the grounds that, as an employee of an agency receiving funds from the municipality, I would have a conflict of interest,” he said. “Such a position, if established as a principle, would have serious implications for local governments across Ontario and serious implications for any councillor who has other employment in their local community, including members of this council.

 

“If a person cannot maintain gainful employment while on council, it becomes impossible to remain on council, as the level of remuneration is not sufficient to live on. This has serious repercussions for local democracy and the interests of candidates who may run. For this reason, I balk at the idea of resigning from council on the premise that people who may benefit from municipal spending should not hold public office.”

 

“We wish you all the best and look forward to working with you in the future,” mayor Larry Kraemer said. “It has been an honour and a pleasure to serve with you.”

 

Following the council meeting, Kraemer said it must have been a difficult decision for Coristine to make.

“I certainly respect the decision,” he said. “It’s very difficult to be a slave to two masters. He reported his decision to council at the first opportunity. I think he made the right call and he will be a good fit for PREDC.”

 

Council will officially declare Coristine’s seat vacant during tonight’s council meeting. The municipality is obligated under the Municipal Act to fill the seat, even though a municipal election is looming. Calling a by-election would cost taxpayers $72,000. Another option is to appoint a candidate from the 2010 election. Another councillor will have to be appointed to the committees and boards that Coristine sat on as a member of council, including the Saugeen Valley Conservation Authority board.

 

According to clerk Donna MacDougall, the last time a seat became vacant was in 2000 following the death of then mayor Gord Jarrell. Gord Thompson, deputy mayor at the time, stepped in as mayor.