More Mayor and Council Secrets: The School of Nursing /Fiasco.

If you are like me, you have been concerned for a long time that when the new hospital opens, there will be no home for the Western Regional School of Nursing (WRSON), which has been part of our community for decades.  

At Grenfell Campus, 221 students are enrolled in the nursing program – that’s about 20% of the student population. The School of Nursing is VERY important to our region – for the survival of Grenfell Campus and for the recruitment of nurses.

You were probably also wondering just where the idea of moving the Western Regional School of Nursing (WRSON) to the Civic Centre Annex came from last November.

Here are my questions:

How did that secret deal happen? 

Was it, as many suspect, the result of  secret discussions between the Mayor and the former CEO of Western Health? 

How were the Mayor and Council able to get to the point of signing an agreement, without anyone being aware of what was happening? 

What will happen to the School of Nursing when the new hospital opens?

What We Know:

When I was Mayor in 2017, I was told by the then Vice-President of Grenfell Campus that the pool was being considered as the new home of the Western Regional School of Nursing.  That made some sense: MUN needs to ask the provincial government for permission to build a new structure, but not to renovate an existing one.  So, as much as we didn’t like the fact that the Grenfell Pool was closed,  it at least made some sense that the pool space could become the new Nursing school.  With that, we started the process of working on a new pool that would meet the needs of the community.

In 2018, though, with a new Vice-President at Grenfell, a new Aquatics Centre project appeared on the horizon with plans to renovate the 46 year old pool.

Up until March 12 2020,  the plans were still being considered to house WRSON somewhere on Grenfell Campus. Consultants were engaged, 6 possible sites on campus were being considered, and then, suddenly, sometime between March and June 2020, everything shifted to the idea of the Nursing School being housed through a 20 year lease of the Annex of our Civic Centre.

Understandably, many were outraged.  I was too, and I wrote about it when it happened.  The Civic Centre is part of the legacy of the Canada Games.  People in this community worked hard to make those games happen.  It was wrong to ever entertain this idea.

Who Was Responsible?

When the story finally broke, the Mayor was front and centre, attempting to justify why moving WRSON into the Annex, a community financed and owned building, was a good idea. He argued that the Annex was under utilized, that there would be a “new” gym at the Aquatics Centre – i.e. Grenfell’s existing gym – and that we really didn’t need the space in the Annex. As the Mayor said in a December 03 , 2020 Saltwire news article “When you buy or build a new house you’ve got to sell the old one,” said Parsons. “You can’t afford to run both.” 

That is wrong on all counts.  

It’s not clear who was involved in the discussions.  An ATIPP request reveals very little specific information about who was involved.  The current Mayor has still not indicated how this idea came about, what his own involvement was, and who else was at the table initially.

The idea was a bad one, and the financing costs to the City, between the Nursing School and the commitments around the Aquatics Centre, are considerable.  

What Are My Commitments?

The Nursing School needs a home.  It can’t go into the old Grenfell pool space now. So a new site will be needed, and soon. That means the province will have to work with Grenfell,  Western Health, and WRSON to advance a plan for a new School of Nursing on Grenfell Campus, where it should be. 

Health Care is important to everyone. If elected, I will put forward a motion to create a new Hospital Committee of Council consisting of councillors and residents to work with Grenfell, Western Health, WRSON, and the provincial government to do two things: work with everyone to secure a space for the School of Nursing and also to work collaboratively with government, Western Health, our Health care Professionals and the business community to help recruit and retain health care professionals for Corner Brook. 

I was always told that if you don’t have your health, you don’t have anything.  The same is true of our City.  We need to protect the precious resource that is our School of Nursing, and we need to be proactive and work with the province to ensure we have the doctors, nurses, and specialists that we need.

Council’s Secret Salary Report: Some Answers

On September 1 I revealed that the current Mayor and Council had commissioned a secret report on council salaries that had been hidden from the public.  I knew this because of an Access to Information request I made to the city.  The Mayor and Council did not publicly disclose that the report had been received in a public meeting, as they should have done.

As I have committed during this election campaign, I intend to ask questions, and more importantly, get the answers to those questions.  If I’m elected, I’ll do the same thing.

So here now are some questions that I asked and the answers I have received, or deduced from the information that I’ve been given.

Was there a recent report on council salary and benefits?


Weren’t the Mayor and Council just following the rules?

That’s putting a spin on things.  Yes, the Mayor and Council were following the rules, but they were following their OWN rules – rules that THEY created in 2018.  Remember – our last Council immediately brought in a four-year wage freeze in 2013.  This Mayor and Council gave themselves a raise early in their term and then made up their own rules for the next increase.

Why didn’t we know about it until now?

The minute of Council authorizing staff to engage a consultant to review council compensation took place in a Briefing Session (a private, unofficial meeting which is not to be used to provide direction to staff) on September 02, 2020 B20-092 – City Manager report.  “The city manager reported that he will be commencing the process for Council Remuneration review. It was agreed to pursue the option of retaining a consultant to conduct the remuneration review.”

The Mayor and Council issued a  Request For Proposals (RFP) in October, 2020. This RFP was “not awarded” according to city records. Yet, at some point after this, the Mayor and Council secretly proceeded to conduct the review. So why is the RFP listed as “not awarded” if council continued to proceed with the review?

Proposals reviews were completed by a council committee, on December 1 with LW Consulting having been selected. 

None of this was publicly disclosed.  It should have been.

What did the report recommend?

The report recommended hefty increases in the annual amount paid to the Mayor, Deputy Mayor and Councillors.

When was it discussed?

On March,1, 2021, In another non official “Briefing Session”, (Minute B21-001) the Mayor and Council had a brief discussion on the Council Remuneration Report. “There was unanimous consent to not implement the recommendations of the report.”  

Once again, this was not an official meeting, the minutes of “Briefing Sessions” are not made public, so why hide the report, IF, as stated the Mayor and Council were all in agreement not to adopt the recommendations? 

Remember that the report was delivered to council on January 21, 2021.

What did the review cost?

The total cost of the report was $4250 + HST.

If salary increases are recommended, who would agree to accept the increases?

To date, of the current council, only Councillors Linda Chaisson and Vaughn Granter have stated publicly that they would not support any increases in council salaries.  

Some would have you believe that no salary increase is possible before 2025.  Based on the wording of this Mayor and Council’s own rules, I’m not convinced.  The Rules that this Mayor and Council made up suggest only that  it would be up to the next council to adopt or reject these recommendations. 

That next council is about to be elected. 

In the meantime, here’s my commitment: as a Councillor, I would NOT vote in favor of any increase to the salary for the Mayor, Deputy Mayor or Councillors.  I will also bring forward a motion to FREEZE COUNCIL REMUNERATION FOR THE MAYOR, DEPUTY MAYOR AND COUNCILLORS – at the current rates for the full 4 year term of council. The taxpayers of Corner Brook are paying enough already.

Now, ask yourself this – what other candidates are ready to publicly make that commitment?

So what’s up with the roads?

Harvey Road

From  what I see around town, it seems that Council is only focusing its paving program on the main roads this year, while many other roads are left neglected.  Corner Brook is more than the main streets!

If you go to any number of side streets, be careful!  Potholes, missing layers of pavement and ruts await you.  It’s not as if the Mayor and Council aren’t aware of these issues. Many people have told me that they have made complaints about their roads, but to no avail. Silence and inaction are what they have experienced.

When a waterline breaks in winter or spring, city crews need to dig up the road to carry out repairs. That’s understandable. But nobody should have to wait six months or more to see these areas replaced.  The same goes for potholes.  

Of course if you don’t spend enough money on road maintenance each year, the roads will quickly fall apart. 

Here’s what this Mayor and Council have spent on roads:

  • At the May 10 public meeting earlier this year, Council announced that they are planning to spend only $1.7 million on the city’s 2021 annual paving program.
  • In 2020, according to the June 20 council minutes, they spent $1.6 million on street paving
  • In 2019 the paving program was valued at $2.785 million (Council meeting June 17, 2019).
  • In 2018 the amount was announced at $1.9 Million. 

By comparison, between 2014 and 2017, the city spent over $ 3 Million on roads each and every year! That’s a big difference from what we have seen over the past few years from the current council.  And the lack of investment really has added up.

If I am elected to city council, I commit to once again making roads a priority.  In order to take pride in our City, we need to maintain it properly.

And I’ll end the silence.  You’ll know where things stand with the paving program.  You’ll know how much the city is spending and where that money is going.  

Let’s get Corner Brook moving again!

Regulation 15 and Council Pay Raises

If elected, I have promised that I will ask questions on all our behalf. It is important that we as taxpayers know what is going on at City Hall and what is being discussed by our elected officials.

Until I asked the City for a report on council salaries (if such a report existed), we would not have known that a report on salary increases had been commissioned and seen by the Mayor and Council. That isn’t right. It should have been made into a public document when it was seen by the Mayor and Council. Not only that, but the document should have been discussed at a public meeting of Council. It should not simply have been talked about behind closed doors (like the Nursing school at the Civic Centre idea).

No motion has been made on the document’s recommendations – whether to accept or reject them. Nothing has been ratified in an official Council meeting.

Reference has been made online to “Regulation 15.” It is important to know that it was this outgoing Mayor and Council who created these Regulations on November 19, 2018. They made their own rules. These aren’t rules that were made by someone else.

Prior to this, the existing Remuneration Regulations were brought in under Mayor Greeley in 2010, and also included annual raises through 2013. We froze council remuneration during the 2013-2017 council for our full term. This is where things stood until this current council brought in the “new” regulations on November 19, 2018.Take a look at the Regulation.

It says “Any recommendation for a change in the Council remuneration from such review shall be implemented not prior to the first month of office for the next elected Council.” Could the new Council choose to implement the recommended salary increases when it takes office? I don’t see anything in Regulation 15 that would prevent that.

This Regulation does not indicate, in my opinion, that the increase can’t come into effect until 2025. It just spells out when the recommendation (made by a previous Council in this case) can be implemented (by the new Council, which will be elected this month).

The important thing here is that we should have known about this report, and it should have been discussed at a public meeting of Council. We should not have to ask for reports from the City. They should be available to us. We have a right to know what our Mayor and Councillors are doing. This is about transparency in decision making.

I’ve committed to you publicly that I will not support any salary increases for Mayor or Council. I will also commit to ensuring any reports that Council receives will be available to you, and you’ll know where I stand on every issue. You won’t have to find out as the result of an information request!I would like to know who else running for Council will commit to NO increases in salary for the Mayor and Council? I’ll have some more questions in the coming days.

The “Confidential Report” on Council Compensation.

Earlier today I shared a list of questions that I would like to ask. After making a request of the city, I have received a copy of the report on recommendations for Council salary and benefits.

It is dated January 2021.

It recommends that the Mayor salary be increased from $39,300 to $58,493.

It recommends that Councillor salary be increased from $25,380 to $36,558.

I still have the following questions:

When was the report discussed?

How much did the report cost?

Why, after the council had viewed the report was kept secret?

We have a right to know what is happening at City Hall. We have a right to be informed about what the Mayor and Council are doing.

My commitment to you is to ask the hard questions, to keep you informed, and to put an end to the secrecy at City Hall.

Council salaries: some things I would like to know.

If elected, I am committed to asking the hard questions.
Here are some questions I would like to ask on council:
· Was there a recent report on council salary and benefits?
· What did it recommend?
· When was it discussed?
· What did the review cost?
· Is the report (if it exists) being kept secret from the public until after the election?
· If salary increases are recommended, who would agree to accept the increases?
The answers to these questions are important. Let’s remember that the outgoing Council increased the residential property tax from 7.5 mils to 8.25 mils. And let’s remember that the Mayor and Council already gave themselves a raise in 2018, (with only Councillors Chaisson and Granter voting against.)
In order to get the answers to these questions, this morning I made a request with the city to release the Consultant’s report, if there is one. Stay tuned!
In the meantime, here’s my commitment: as a Councilor, I would NOT vote in favor of any increase to the salary for the Mayor or Councillors. The taxpayers of Corner Brook are paying enough already.