If an organization asks for money, what’s the worst that could happen? Usually, that they are told “no” but unfortunately this was not the case for Maison Interlude House on Monday when their request for $1,000 went before Cornwall City Council.
Maison Interlude House is an organization that supports women who have been victims of domestic violence in Cornwall, SD&G and Prescott-Russell. They were asking Council for this very modest sum in order to help them throw a fundraising event this coming December which in turn will help them continue to do their important work.
Not only did Council tell Maison Interlude House “no” they would not receive a donation from the city, but members of Council also made statements on camera that would lead the public to think that this organization does not serve the people of Cornwall. Furthermore, I feel this entire donation request was handled in a way that did not look good for Council or Maison Interlude House.
Councillor Elaine MacDonald stated that the city should only be giving out money for organizations that support those living in Cornwall and implied that Maison Interlude House did not fit into this category because they are based outside of Cornwall and SD&G.
This is simply incorrect. Maison Interlude House does serve Cornwall. Not only does it serve Cornwall, but according to the organization’s own numbers, out of all of the regional counties they serve the greatest number of women who use their outreach and transitional housing support programs come from Stormont County, which includes The City of Cornwall.
Administration recommended that this donation not be granted because it had not come before the Community Grants Committee, which reviews all community donation requests and presents them to Council annually at budget time. Additionally, administration felt that the Economic Development department, which does have a budget to sponsor events, could not do so in this case because it was a donation, not a sponsorship.
Councillor Sarah Good, who advocated that the donation to Maison Interlude House be granted, and rightly so, stated that other events in Cornwall had their requests for financial support approved despite them following outside of those two narrow fields. Councillor Good said that to her, that in these cases, it seemed that donations were granted based on access to the right person in municipal government.
Councillor MacDonald and Councillor Syd Gardiner both vehemently denied that donations were granted based on access. Mayor Justin Towndale did state however, that he had received this donation request personally, from Maison Interlude House honourary co-president Francis Drouin, Liberal MP for Glengarry-Prescott-Russell, who Towndale called a friend.
This brings me to my final point. This whole situation was a bad look for Cornwall City Council, one that could have easily been avoided if it were handled differently from the start. I feel this situation could have been handled better by Mayor Towndale, who could have checked with administration if they would have recommended the donation be approved or not before it even came before a public council meeting. If they told him “no” then he could have asked Council privately if they would donate directly out of their own pocket to cover the $1,000 donation and support an organization that is doing such important work in Cornwall.
I hope that Councillor MacDonald and others who publicly stated incorrectly that Maison Interlude House doesn’t serve Cornwall correct the record in the same public manner.
All of this embarrassment over such a small sum.
If you’d like to support Maison Interlude House, please visit https://minterludeh.ca/en/about-us/donate/