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  • Writer's pictureDouglas W. Judson

What is a ‘Lame Duck’ Council?

At recent meetings of council of the Town of Fort Frances, the prospect of entering a ‘lame duck’ phase later this year was discussed.

What is a lame duck council?

During an election year, provincial law strips a council of certain powers in the event that there will be a material change in its membership prior to the next election.

The purpose of these restrictions is to ensure sound decisions continue to be made by persons who remain accountable to the community, and that councils that are dominated by people not seeking re-election don't make rash decisions to hobble their successors.

The theory goes that even though a new council has not been sworn in yet, a new regime is on the way and they are the ones that ought to make key decisions for the municipality.

What powers are restricted during lame duck?

Section 275 of the Municipal Act, 2001 prohibits council from making certain decisions in a municipal election year when certain conditions are met.

During a lame duck period, council is restricted from:

  • Appointing or removing from office any officer of the municipality (i.e., the Chief Administrative Officer, the Clerk, or the Treasurer);

  • The hiring or dismissal of any employee of the municipality;

  • The disposition (sale) of any real or personal property of the municipality which has a value exceeding $50,000 at the time of disposal; and

  • Making expenditures or incurring any other liability which exceeds $50,000.

When is lame duck triggered?

Section 275 of the Municipal Act, 2001 states that if the new council will include less than three-quarters of the members of the outgoing council (in our case, fewer than 6 of the 7 members current members), council enters a 'lame duck' phase.

There are two periods of time near the end of term where it may be determined that council has entered a lame duck mode:

  • Starting on nomination day (August 19, 2022), if it is determined that less than 6 of the 7 members of council are not running for re-election, council will enter lame duck period until the end of term (November 14, 2022); and

  • After voting day (October 24, 2022), if the new council will be composed of at least 6 out of 7 members of the current council, council will enter a lame duck period until the end of term (November 14, 2022).

This is discussed in greater detail in a recent report from the municipal clerk.

How are decisions made by the municipality during a lame duck period?

Sections 23.1, 270(1)6, and 276(6) of the Municipal Act, 2001 contemplate that council may delegate its powers to any person or body, and that such delegation remains in effect despite the lame duck rule, as long the delegation was made prior to nomination day (August 19, 2022).

Accordingly, on March 14, 2022, council adopted a by-law to delegate authority to the Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) for certain acts to be taken on its behalf during a lame duck period. The CAO will report regularly to council on any actions he takes under this authority.

Will Fort Frances enter a lame duck period?

It is currently anticipated that our council will enter a lame duck period starting on nomination day (August 19, 2022) until the end of the current term (November 14, 2022) as more than one member has indicated that they do not intend to seek re-election.

How can I run for the office of mayor or councillor?

Ontario's next municipal election will take place on October 24, 2022. Nominations open on May 2, 2022 and close on August 19, 2022, with the new council taking office after November 14, 2022.

Voting in Fort Frances in this year's election will take place by telephone and online.

An information session is planned by the municipal clerk for April 8, 2022, where prospective candidates can learn about the election process and the work of council.

Under the Municipal Elections Act, 1996, those seeking to be nominated must be at least 18 years old and must reside or own property in the municipality in which they wish to run. To be nominated, at least 25 endorsement signatures are required from others meeting these criteria.

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