As their virtual Annual General Meeting (AGM) opened, Municipalities of Saskatchewan delegates elected Naicam Mayor Rodger Hayward as their newest president. Hayward replaces incumbent Gordon Barnhart who has come under fire for traveling to Hawaii during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“It is an honour to be elected Municipalities of Saskatchewan President,” Hayward said in a release.
“I look forward to continuing to work with Municipalities of Saskatchewan’s Board of Directors as President, and our member municipalities, to ensure our hometowns have the resources we need. We are stronger when we work together.”
In January, Prince Albert Mayor Greg Dionne explained that the city was examining their membership ahead of the convention. When Barnhart was traveling during the pandemic it accelerated those discussions.
“It wasn’t me retaliating for him doing that. This was already done before and now this thing has really added to it,” he explained to the Daily Herald in January.
“I’m very disappointed. I do believe he should step down from his job,” Dionne added.
Dionne said city council has already approved a motion asking the management committee for an examination and report on whether the city was getting value for its dollar from belonging to the organization. Membership fees cost the City of Prince Albert around $25,000, which Dionne said is very expensive for the City.
“It’s tough with COVID, and with everything else we could use that money (on) we are going to review it,” he explained.
Dionne also said the decision to hold a virtual AGM was one of the reasons they’re looking at leaving. He explained that the election is a major item on the agenda, along with the sector meeting for municipalities. Dionne said a virtual election will give incumbents too much of an advantage.
Along with the controversy around his travel in May 2020, Barnhart, who is also Mayor of Saltcoats, came under fire for suggesting the amalgamation of municipalities. Consolidating towns, villages and rural municipalities has long been a politically fraught issue and Barnhart said they are no longer tenable.
“I might be run out of town, but, to my mind, I think we’re starting to get close to crisis proportions, where these communities are really needing help to survive and thrive,” Barnhart told the Saskatoon StarPhoenix in an interview.
“Without that, it’s really holding back the economic development of the province.”
The Municipalities of Saskatchewan, then known as SUMA, later distanced themselves from his comments.
Hayward has served as Municipalities of Saskatchewan’s Vice-President of Towns since 2012. He was first elected to the Board of Directors in 2010 as Northeast Regional Director. Hayward has represented Naicam since 1996 and has served six terms as mayor.
The towns and villages, resort villages, and northern municipal sectors also elected their sector representatives. Nipawin Mayor Rennie Harper will serve as the new Vice-President of Towns, and incumbent Mike Strachan, Mayor of Torquay, will continue to serve as Vice-President of Villages, Resort Villages, and Northern Municipalities.
Hayward, Harper, and Strachan will begin their four-year terms following the conclusion of the Virtual Convention and Tradeshow on Feb. 10.
-With files from Alex MacPherson, Saskatoon StarPhoenix