CORNWALL, Ontario – Glen Grant was appointed Mayor of Cornwall by the majority vote of Council on Thursday, July 8 and was sworn on Monday, July 12. With roughly 16 months left in the current term of Council, Grant is taking over for former Mayor Bernadette who resigned her position after being appointed to the Senate of Canada.
Cornwall Seaway News sat down with Grant on Tuesday, July 13 to ask him about his goals as Mayor, his relationship with neighbouring municipalities, and more.
Grant started off by explaining that his goals for being Mayor largely aligned with those of his predecessor.
“When I first ran for Council, I had a goal in mind, to replacing our aging rinks (hockey) and it took two terms, but we finally got it. We built The Benson Centre,” he said. “Then I was on the Waterfront Committee and our next goal was to acquire the waterfront from the federal government at no cost to the taxpayers and that is still a goal of mine. Our Strategic Plan talks about the waterfront and waterfront development.”
Grant also said that there were issues emerging beyond the municipal Startegic Plan that he would like to see addressed.
“Now we look at affordable housing it is such a priority,” he said. “When you’re not around it, you don’t see it, but the past few months it has been brought to my attention.”
Seaway News asked Grant how he would handle the important relationship with Cornwall’s two neighbours, the United Counties of SD&G and the Mohawk Council of Akwesasne (MCA).
“I don’t think we’ve met often enough with the Counties,” Grant said. “We have a joint liaison where we talk about what we manage collectively, but to go beyond that, I think we have to be looking at tourism. There was a split in tourism and now I think it is coming together.”
“It is about expanding what is good for all of us,” he went on to say. “Living in silos is not a way to progress.”
As for Akwesasne, Grant said he saw opportunities to partner with the MCA on a number of active files.
“Homelessness is something that we should be looking at, and the waterfront is something we should be looking at,” he said. “Akwesasne, the MCA, have an interest in the waterfront where can we work together and look at the waterfront like we did with the harbour. I had a good conversation with the Chief (Abram Benedict), and he knows where I’m coming from as far as our Council’s perspective and we have a good understanding.”
Prior to becoming Mayor, Grant served as the Chair of the important Police Services Board. Grant said he is proud of the work the Board has accomplished, including recently appointing Shawna Spowart as the new Chief Designate. Spowart will be the first female and first openly gay Chief in the history of the Cornwall Police Service.
Grant said that he is speaking with his council colleagues about filling the vacancy on the Police Board.
“My thought has always been that it shouldn’t be the Mayor chairing these things, it should be a councillor because it gives them the opportunity to work together as a group and running meetings,” he said, adding that he will be remaining on the Board.
One of the characteristics of the current Council that Mayor Clement had emphasized was interpersonal relationships and cooperation among Council members, something that Grant sees continuing.
“There is no animosity in our Council at all,” he said. “Sometimes there are disagreements around the council table that get a little heated at times, but there’s nothing personal about that. Your representing the community and one person sees that one way, and one sees it another way and when its all over, its all over.”
One of the responsibilities of Mayor is to run the Council meetings, and Grant said he plans on running a tight, but fair ship.
“What I don’t like, and what I’ve never liked is running inefficient meetings,” he said.
Council has a rule that presentations to Council should run no more than 10 minutes. Grant said that while efficiency was important, so was getting all of the information and that he might not be as strict when it comes to the 10 minute rule.
“It depends on the presentation. I’ve never heard a council member say to Bernadette ‘hey, let’s get back to 10 minutes on this’ because there’s valuable information there and Council needs that information,” said Grant.
Grant did not say he would continue his predecessors policy of allowing Councillors to speak more than once on an issue, and while he did not say he would cut any Councillors off, he did say he would encourage them to be brief if they were running over their allotted time to speak of three minutes.
These next 16 months as Mayor will be Grants last in municipal politics in Cornwall as he has no intention of running for re-election.
With his elevation to Mayor, there remains a vacancy on Council. Grant said that Council will officially declare the seat vacant before the end of the month and will decide how best to fill that seat. Council can hold a by-election, or appoint someone. Traditionally Council offers a vacant seat to the person who got the most next votes in an election. Grant said he has not yet decided how he would prefer seeing the seat filled, but was not entirely sold on sticking to tradition.
“The one bad thing about doing the same thing over and over again is you get caught in past practice,” he said.
Grant said that with his time in municipal politics coming to a close, and his time as Mayor being as brief as it is, he has thought about what he would like to do over the next 16 months and how he would like to be remembered.
“If the last thing I can do is set into motion to acquire the waterfront . . . my feeling about the waterfront is that the federal government always says ‘we own it.’ Well, they don’t own it, the people of Canada own it. They’re stewards and what I’m asking is that we should be stewards of this because we are so close to it,” he said. “If we can work with our neighbours in Akwesasne that is a win-win for everybody.”