By Stephen Hawboldt
Turmoil surrounding the Citizen Advisory Committee on Fur Farming formed by the Annapolis County council last summer continues. In the latest round, a councillor resigned from council’s nominating committee because their nominee to fill a vacancy on the advisory committee was rejected by council.
In October, council removed Peter Zavitz, a citizen appointee, from the advisory committee at the request of other members of the committee. In that request, committee chair Gordon Jackson said that Zavitz says he can’t work with the group but didn’t want to resign. He noted that Zavitz refused to respect the confidentiality of the discussions often providing his point of view to a large number of e-mail recipients. At that time, county staff told council that the deliberations of the committee were not confidential and were open to the public.
Council removed Zavitz without stating the reason and instructed staff to advertise for a replacement. While it could not be specified in the advertisement, many councillors expressed the desire to maintain a balance of opinions on the committee. Jackson, a livestock farmer, currently serves with Frank Thomas, a citizen representative; Lloyd Evans, a retired hog farmer; and Dr. Dave MacHattie, a veterinarian working with livestock and mink farmers.
Four applications were received to replace Zavitz and the nominating committee, chaired by newly elected Councillor Alex Morrison, recommended the appointment of James Mullen, a local mink farmer and a past-president of the Nova Scotia Mink Breeders Association. Morrison said that the committee had, “chosen the person that offers the most to the mandate of the committee.” The other three applicants were citizens not directly involved in the industry.
The majority of councillors felt that while Mullen may have strong technical skills, balancing the composition of the committee is a priority. Councillor Gregory Heming said that “making an effort to be balanced is absolutely critical.” Deputy Warden Marilyn Wilkins added that, “perception is reality.” Council voted six to three to reject the recommendation of the nominating committee.
Following the vote, Councillor Morrison said that, “council should make sure that all requirements are known.” He immediately tendered his resignation from the nomination committee stating that, “the committee had its mandate and carried it out.” When asked by Warden Reg Ritchie to reconsider, Morrison refused.
Warden Ritchie, who is also a member of the nominating committee, said he was surprised by council’s rejection of Mullen. He said that Mullen has a mink ranch in Clementsvale and is developing an operation on Brooklyn Road in the Middleton. The Warden was also surprised by Morrison’s resignation that required Council to interrupt its proceedings to elect a replacement. Other members of the nominating committee are councillors Wayne Fowler and Frank Chipman. After two ballots, Councillor Martha Roberts was named as the replacement for Morrison.
Mullen said “due to the optics,” he didn’t expect the council to appoint him. He said that he believes the committee needs people who are informed about the industry to help with decision making. He added that some people are opposed to the industry due to “ideology.” He said that if policy makers base decisions on ideology or special interests, the economy will suffer. To demonstrate the economic benefits arising from mink farming, Mullen said that he conducted a day-long guided tour that included councillors ‘Fuzzy’ Connell and Wayne Fowler and representatives from Kings County. They visited mink processing facilities, a car dealership, and local suppliers to the industry. Councillor Connell provided a detailed report to the November session of council.
Colleen McGill, Brooklyn Road, was one of the other applicants. She said that her interest was in trying to find a way to cohabit. “I want to make sure we can live together,” she added. JC Mongait, Tupperville, said that he was interested because he wanted a balanced approach that was not dominated by industry people. Mongait was an unsuccessful candidate in District 8 in the October municipal elections. The third applicant could not be reached for comment.
The reconstituted nominating committee is expected to recommend a candidate to the December session of county council.