Port au Port volunteer fire department resigns en masse

Frank
Frank Gale
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A municipal election dispute has led to the resignation of the entire Port au Port Fire Department. — Star file photo

PORT AU PORT EAST  The towns of Port au Port East and Port au Port West-Aguathuna-Felix Cove are without a fire department following a meeting of the volunteer group Wednesday.

Fire Chief Bill Abbott said members of the fire department voted to close the doors in a meeting and that “majority rules.”

He said he didn’t personally resign from the fire department.

Jeremy Simon, firefighter and former deputy fire chief, however, said all 19 members of the Port au Port Fire Department resigned over a municipal election issue.

It’s all over a request to the town of Port au Port East to separate the ballots of council from that of mayor. The community, like most small towns in the province, has only one ballot for its municipal election. Once the votes are tallied, the council itself determines who will be mayor.

Because of this, Simon said the town council of Port au Port East has refused to let current Coun. Michael McCann and deputy fire chief, run for mayor. McCann, as council liaison with the volunteer department, was responsible for applying for the new fire truck, getting firefighting equipment donated through various sources and is in the process of having the entire department trained, said Simon.

Simon said in support of having McCann run for mayor, the firefighters resigned.

“We informed the town of our decision through correspondence, but will be putting it in writing in the next day or two,” said Simon.

Port au Port East Mayor Eileen Hann said her council will be holding a meeting Tuesday afternoon and the issue will be tabled at that time. Before saying too much on the issue, Hann opted to wait until the meeting to share council’s view, but did say changing the voting system couldn’t be completed in time for this year’s municipal election.

“As for having a separate mayoral vote in the election … that is something that would take time to change and not something that can be done in time for the Sept. 24 election.”

Throughout the town’s 60-year history, council has always had an open election with the mayor’s seat decided among the elected council members.

Hann said a separate ballot had been discussed in the past and the decision was to keep it the way it is currently.

“When McCann made the request in an email to change it, council members were asked to vote on it and all four council members polled voted to leave it as is,” the mayor said.

The Stephenville Fire Department has always been the backup for Port au Port and Hann figures there wouldn’t be a problem for coverage until things get straightened out. She hopes it won’t be too long before that happens.

McCann, meanwhile, said he has lived in a lot of places across Canada and has always been involved in the communities he calls home. He feels not allowing the public the opportunity to vote for its mayor is “morally and ethically wrong.”

To him it’s not the matter of winning, it’s giving the public the opportunity to decide and said he would be up for that challenge.

Due to current policies in Port au Port East, McCann said that opportunity is non-existant and asked for the change with a mayoral race.

He said without change he would not be seeking nomination for councillor and relenting all associated responsibility that came about as a result of that position.

“Simply put, I should have the right to run for mayor,” McCann said.

Requests were made to the provincial department of Municipal Affairs relating to responsibilities and liabilities in the case of a fire department closing down, as well as how much time it would take for a community to change its policy on an election.

Hugh Donnan of the Department of Municipal Affairs said the matter will be looked to.

Organizations: Port au Port Fire Department, Department of Municipal Affairs, Stephenville Fire Department

Geographic location: Port au Port East, Canada

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Recent comments

  • Just get new volunteers
    September 04, 2013 - 15:25

    Say the hell with them and put in a call for new volunteers - you want to resign, then the hell with you, sit down and shut up, you lost your right to say anything when you resigned!

  • mellie
    August 30, 2013 - 23:01

    I am floored to hear how antiquated the process is.. I am speechless

  • gord
    August 30, 2013 - 21:26

    Too bad a town has to suffer because the volunteer firefighters don't understand the process that has been in place for years. Leadership is lacking there as someone on the fire committee could have made inquiries before such embarrassing action was taken. Now the towns people have to bear the humiliation as this is in the news but not the way they had hoped.

    • CHEVON
      August 31, 2013 - 05:58

      I think the intent of the fire fighters was to show support for Mr. McCann. I don't think any one in that department thought they alone would change the municipal election rules. A lot of those men don't even live in your town so none of this would benefit them one way or another. As for leadership, the same could be said about your council Gord.

  • Brumar
    August 30, 2013 - 20:46

    Mr. McCann; You are not able to make your own rules for an election. While it is very desirable for each municipality to hold a separate election for mayor; this is an issue that normally evolves in the growth of a town. The position of your fellow fire-fighters only greatly detracts from the respect and admiration that they have justly earned in the past. Mr. McCann; step up to your full height as a manly person and stop this action which only brings disrepute to the deservingly fine organization of which you a part.

  • John from Kippens
    August 30, 2013 - 19:39

    Clearly Mr. McCann being associated with the fire department has attempted to strong arm the municipalities elections in attempting to run for Mayor. So it is my understanding from the news this evening that the current five Councillors will elect a Mayor, I guess Mr. McCann was not confident that the current members of council would elect him. Personally, I say vote Mr. Abbott for Mayor putting the safety of the town and our family's first. Shame on you Mr. McCann in saying that if there is a fire the Port au Port Fire department will not respond I hope nothing even happens during this dispute.

    • ANNOYED WITH THE NEWS
      August 31, 2013 - 06:08

      Since the news often reports incorrectly, I wonder about the accurateness of this whole situation. We've now seen and heard lots of comments in the news from Mr. McCann stating how the fire fighters will not respond in support of him. How come no one has asked the other fire fighters if this is true? What about the fire chief? Walking out of a meeting and resigning as a fire fighter are two different things I would think. I have to wonder if this has been reported incorrectly. The fire chief stated that he did not resign but was then contradicted in the article by the "ex deputy chief"? All the other comments are from this ex-deputy chief and Michael McCann. Hmmmm. What is the truth?

  • Concerned
    August 30, 2013 - 17:42

    I think Mr McCann has a very valid point. Peope should have a say and the mayor should not be hand picked even in a small town. It is wonderful that people are dedicated and have been a mayoral post for many years but maybe its time to allow newer views and younger people a chance to show what they can do. Anyone should have a right to run for mayor. I think it's good that a group bans together to support a positiin but sadly it is a life and death service and not one to be trifled with. They need to put the townspeople first while expressing their support as well - maybe thru a petition or a rally.

  • Concerned Person
    August 30, 2013 - 17:38

    I think Mr McCann has a very valid point. Peope should have a say and the team should not be hand picked even in a small town. It is wonderful that people are dedicated and have been a mayoral post for many years but maybe its time to allow newer views and younger people a chance to show what they can do. Anyone should have a right to run for mayor. I think it's good that the firefighters banned together to support Mr McCann but sadly it is a life and death service and not one to be trifled with. They need ti put the townspeople first.

  • TAXPAYER
    August 30, 2013 - 14:22

    I'm not sure what Mr. McCann or these other firefighters hoped to accomplish by abandoning their towns. The election process can not be changed in time to allow Mr. McCann his opportunity to pursue his political dreams so what was the point? Choosing your leader from within is a process used by political parties all the time. If the community wants to change the current process then it should be changed, but only if the majority wants it. That's called democracy. Luckily for the voters in our town Mr. McCann has shown us a glimpse of his ethics and what he'll resort to when things don't go his way. If I get a chance to vote for mayor in the future Mr. McCann, I will not be casting that vote for you. Kudos to Mr. Abbott for apparently being the only when who put the towns ahead of himself.

  • ASHAMED
    August 30, 2013 - 12:26

    The volunteer fire fighters should be ashamed of themselves for the way they are acting. Their responsibility is to protect the people in their town during what could be life and death situations. The townspeople have paid the bill for their training and trust in them to fulfill the commitment they made when joining the department. Who becomes mayor in a town has nothing to do with this. That is a completely separate issue and should be dealt with through due process. Mr. McCann should be ashamed as well for holding the town's fire protection "hostage" in a bid to get his own way. Shame on all of you.

  • Firefighter
    August 30, 2013 - 10:47

    It's a sad day for firefighting when a Department resigns but to base your decisions for political reasons is wrong .When you join a Fire Dept you join to preserve Life and To Protect Property.There are the right Avenues to voice your concerns to these concerns .I was a Volunteer Firefighter and have to say I do not agreed with the Fire Department on this one.I would also like the president of the firefighters association to comment on this issue. This is a serious issue where you are putting people's life and property at risk over something that can be settled using proper channels.If something would happen how would you feel .Gentleman /Ladies get back to what your are good at and that's being a Fire Department protecting your fellow neighbours from HARM

  • a canadiate
    August 30, 2013 - 10:30

    i will seek election in a small town and have for years and we let the one elected with the most votes decide if they want mayors job and if they dont we call for nomanations from the 7 elected and elect for mayors job and it works well i did have the most votes the last time but felt where i was new to council that i take deputy mayors job to learn the ropes now i feel im ready for mayor if i get the highest number of votes if i dont i will be happy to work as a councilor

  • mellie
    August 30, 2013 - 09:55

    About time dont give in always was a close group who were never accountable to anyone only their buddies

  • Poppins
    August 30, 2013 - 09:21

    The Municipal Elections Act directs the running of elections in this province....not a request from the Fire Dept. Does the Dept think they will have more clout if Mr. McCann were to become Mayor? Most of the smaller municipalities opt to go with the *one ballot* system, and choose a mayor from those elected. How is this *refusing to let* Mr. McCann run for Mayor? Mayor Hann is correct in saying that it is too late to change the format for this Sept election. That decision would have been made months ago. Any decision would have been for the betterment of the council and the town, not so that one person could run for the top post. In too many small towns, the fire departments try to *run* councils....forgetting that they are responsible to Council, not the other way around.

  • carogers
    August 30, 2013 - 09:21

    when are these small town councils going to learn they are not inventing democracy? Councils have been voted in and out for centuries. For some reason small town councils in Newfoundland just play follow the leader who makes up his own rules and has a disregard the democratic process.