Ron Coristine resigns
from Kincardine council
By Liz Dadson
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Kincardine councillor Ron Coristine has resigned.
The new executive director of the Penetangore Regional Economic Development Corporation (PREDC), Coristine made a statement at the beginning of the council meeting last night (April 2), and then left.
He said he and his family moved to Kincardine in the late 1990s at the time when Ontario Hydro was closing units at the Bruce A nuclear generating station.
They stayed because of the natural beauty along the Lake Huron shoreline, the safe community for raising a family, and the many great festivals and events, including the Kincardine Scottish Pipe Band parades every Saturday night in the summer.
Coristine said he quickly recognized there are good-paying jobs and poor-paying jobs in the community, but not enough jobs with a decent wage on which to raise a family. And that young people see more opportunity elsewhere than they can see at home.
"The recognition that our future is dependent on our economic development was a key factor in my consideration to run for council in 2010," he said. "I chose to focus on promoting tourism and economic development as a means to bring investment and jobs, on which young families could live decently."
He said when the job posting for executive director of PREDC came out, he did not think of applying for it, until asked by a member of the business community if he would be willing to do so.
"It was a logical extension of what I was doing," said Coristine. "I am familiar with the community. I have worked on various economic development initiatives. I have education and experience in management of community development.
"And if I were successful, PREDC would have hired someone local instead of bringing in someone from elsewhere. It would be one small step on the road to using local talent and strengthening our capacity as a community."
He said he thought seriously about whether he could continue to be effective in his role on council while being employed by PREDC. He consulted two law firms and the Office of the Conflict of Interest Commissioner of Ontario.
"All three assured me that I was not in a conflict of interest to be employed by a corporation that is funded in part by the municipality," said Coristine. "Conflict of interest requirements would, of course, mean that I would recuse myself from decisions where there could be a pecuniary conflict of interest."
He said the legislation has been established so that people can live and work in small communities and be explicit about conflict when it arises and recuse themselves from such decisions.
"Both lawyers advised that I should not even think about resigning from council on the grounds that, as an employee of an agency receiving funds from the municipality, I would have a conflict of interest," said Coristine. "If a person cannot maintain gainful employment while on council, it becomes impossible to remain on council, as we know the level of remuneration is not sufficient to live on.
"For that reason, I balk at the idea of resigning from council on the premise that people who may benefit from municipal spending should not hold public office."
However, he said, "after much thought and reflection, I have decided to resign my position on council. Not because I have done anything wrong. Not because I could not put in the time and energy to perform well on council while in the position with PREDC. And definitely not because of ANY conflict of interest.
"I have decided to resign my position on council in order to devote myself fully to the cause of economic development and the betterment of this community for the future of our children and our grandchildren."
His resignation was effective immediately.
"I do wish my colleagues success in the issues that lie ahead," he said, "the bringing of natural gas to the community to level the economic playing field, wise investment of the proceeds from the sale of our telephone company so we can continue to realize a dividend and off-set taxes; the forging of a solid working relationship between PREDC and the municipality.
"I wish us success as a place to live, work, support ourselves, and provide for our families."
Coristine then told council that his wife had asked him to go for dinner, so rather than remain in the public gallery for the meeting, he was going to leave.
"We wish you all the best and success in your new duties," said mayor Larry Kraemer. "We look forward to working with you. Thank you for your dedicated service on council. It was a pleasure and an honour to serve with you.
"Thank you very much," said Coristine, and left.
Clerk Donna MacDougall said council will receive Coristine's formal resignation at the April 9 meeting, and then declare the seat vacant.
Council then has to decide if it will appoint someone to council or hold a by-election which could cost about $72,000, the same as the municipal election which is slated for Oct. 27 this year.
MacDougall said the last time a seat was declared vacant was in 2000 when mayor Gordon Jarrell died in office. At that time, deputy mayor Gord Thompson became mayor, councillor Sharon Mooser became deputy mayor, and council appointed someone to fill the vacant councillor position.
In an interview Tuesday afternoon at the PREDC office, located in the Lake Huron Learning Centre, Coristine said he was pleased the corporation had hired a local guy for the job of executive director.
He said he had no conflict of interest with the Kincardine budget which includes $140,000, plus HST, for PREDC because the final budget was approved in February and he was not hired until late March.
Regarding the lease for the downtown tourist booth, which includes an office for PREDC and was approved by council March 19, Coristine said that deal is all about trying to create affordable space for all groups, including PREDC, the Kincardine Business Improvement Area (BIA), the Kincardine and District Chamber of Commerce, and the Kincardine tourism department.
He said the chamber is the main lease-holder because the municipality had said it may want to move the tourist booth into the Kincardine Arts Centre in a couple of years, once interior renovations are completed there.
As for taking over from former executive director Gerry Taylor who died in December, 2013, Coristine said it felt strange walking into Taylor's office.
"I liked Gerry a lot and enjoyed working with him," said Coristine. "I really miss him."
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Wednesday, April 02, 2014