by Phil Ambroziak
“I look forward to continuing to serve the community of Cole Bay.”
And that is exactly what Nadine Couillonneur plans to do now that her position as Cole Bay mayor has been confirmed in a court of law.
Friday (Jan. 17), Judge Lloyd Stang delivered his verdict in the October hearing held in Meadow Lake that argued whether or not Couillonneur, along with her mother – Cole Bay councillor Shirley Couillonneur – and her cousin – councillor Ruby Couillonneur – should be ejected from office based on their failure to adhere to conflict of interest rules.
Because Ruby Couillonneur voluntarily resigned from council prior to the matter going to court, Stang considered the application against her as moot. He also dismissed the applications against both Nadine and Shirley Couillonneur.
“On June 18, 2018, the Cole Bay municipal council was comprised of five persons – meaning the attendance of no less than three of these persons was required to constitute and maintain quorum for any meeting or portion of a meeting,” Stang’s verdict reads. “Council member Ruby Couillonneur was absent from this meeting. The meeting started with a proper quorum of four. However, when Nadine Couillonneur and Shirley Couillonneur were excluded from the meeting, there remained only two members of council and, consequently, quorum was lost. Therefore, any act or proceeding adopted is not valid. It necessarily follows, the impugned (disputed) resolution, purporting to disqualify the respondents and declare vacant their positions on the municipal council was not and is not valid.”
Prior to the June 18, 2018 meeting, a recommendation by Ombudsman Saskatchewan was received by the Hamlet of Cole Bay council resulting in the decision on that group’s part to disqualify the three members in question. According to the findings of an Ombudsman investigation, the Couillonneurs were in conflict when they moved for the appointment of another family member to represent the community on the Primrose Lake Economic Development Corporation (PLEDCO) board of directors. Instead of rehiring long-time director and Cole Bay resident Aldina Bouvier whose term had expired, the board position ultimately went to Camellia Couillonneur, the mayor’s sister. The report also stated the Couillonneurs were in conflict of interest when members of their family were appointed to the community’s fire suppression crew, and suggested the trio immediately resign and not be eligible to be nominated or elected in any municipality for 12 years. The remaining two council members voted in favour of this during the June 18 meeting.
“I’m very pleased with the judge’s decision on a personal level because it clears our names,” Nadine Couillonneur told Northern Pride. “At the same time, however, I’m very saddened for the community because all of this time could have been better spent on making positive changes for Cole Bay. Much time and community finances were used to investigate this matter and to bring it to court, and for a community of our size that’s a lot of time and money down the drain.”
Couillonneur went on to say the people of Cole Bay deserve to have a leader who will work for them.
“Our residents deserve more than what they have been given these past two years, so I plan to make it up to them going forward,” she said.
Couillonneur was elected mayor in October 2016. The next municipal election is scheduled to take place this fall.
Meanwhile, Ron Cherkewich, the lawyer who represented the Couillonneurs, also expressed his satisfaction with Stang’s decision.
“Nadine and her mother feel very redeemed,” Cherkewich said. “This has been a real struggle for them, but the judge – from our perspective – got it right.”
Nadine Couillonneur, meanwhile, reiterated how happy and relieved she is to get back to business as mayor of Cole Bay.
“It’s been a tough time, but even though we’re a small community we’re also a strong one,” she said. “We will get through this.”