Pembroke — “That Peter Emon. He’s done it before. He was pretty good at it. There is no other nominee.”
That was the bullet point description Admaston/Bromley Mayor Michael Donohue shared about the new warden during the inaugural session of Renfrew County council last Wednesday. He noted he used this as a draft to prepare his speech last Wednesday nominating Warden Emon, the reeve of Renfrew, for the position. Noting this was uncharacteristic brevity for himself, the mayor said he did expand on his nominating speech in part for the information of the many new members of Renfrew County council.
“As in past nominations, I am drawn again to the faces on the wall of honour just outside this chamber,” he said, referring to the pictures of wardens through the years. “Individually they represent a brief interval of time, confronted with challenges and opportunities specific to their time.”
Collectively, they are emblematic of continuity of the council of the County of Renfrew.
“Looking around the chamber, renewal is on full display,” he said. “The majority of council take their seats today for the first time.”
Against this backdrop of change, Reeve Emon is “uniquely qualified to assume the mantle of warden.”
This is not the first time he has been the warden with many new councillors, Mayor Donohue said. In 2014, then Warden Emon had 12 new councillors. Mayor Donohue was one of them.
Reeve Emon is also unique in having served at county council both as the mayor of Greater Madawaska and the reeve of Renfrew, he pointed out.
Perhaps the most important event in his time as warden was the Memorandum of Understanding with the Algonquins of Pikwakanagan in 2016, he noted.
“This historic accord would finally and formally recognize that the destiny and prosperity of each of our communities is inextricably entwined,” he said.
Warden Emon was also at the helm when the GoCo model was brought in at AECL, now CNL.
“While its impact is felt around the world, it is incredibly vital to our economic health and diversity, right here in Renfrew County,” he said.
Warden Emon served as chair of the Eastern Ontario Warden’s Caucus and sat on the board of AMO, among other accomplishments, he said.
“Peter has been a mentor and sage sounding board for council colleagues,” he added.
Strong Mayor Powers
Mayor Donohue also took the opportunity in his nominating address to speak out against the “strong mayor” powers awarded by the provincial government in Bill 23 to some large city mayors. He said this was based on a belief compromise is weak and that ends justify means.
“Make no mistake, housing supply and affordability are critical issues in Ontario and meeting this challenge will require the full and focused attention of all stakeholders,” he noted.
However, a threshold of only one-third council support on planning issues would have only incremental value in addressing the housing challenge “but at the steep cost of eroding democracy,” he said.
This is an “egregious overreach” and there is growing opposition to this bill, he noted.
“It may induce another Ford recall notice,” he quipped.
The new warden will provide stability and vision during these turbulent times, Mayor Donohue concluded.
Seconded by Mayor Murphy
Bonnechere Valley Mayor Jennifer Murphy, herself a former warden, was the seconder for the nomination. She said Mayor Donohue provided much information on Warden Emon’s accomplishments, so she wanted to add some personal notes.
“When I was first elected and had that shiny new councillor look, Peter took on the challenge of mentoring this rookie with big dreams and an even bigger mouth,” she said.
Over the years he has mentored many county councillors.
“He was always approachable and accessible for any questions,” she said.
He could give advice on process or how to be successful at a conference.
“Peter doesn’t consider mistakes a bad thing,” she said. “In fact, you will hear, ‘that was a teachable moment’.”
She noted he is a prankster and councillors have been subject to his shenanigans.
“He knows when to have fun and when it is time to get down to serious work,” she said. “I believe that is why Peter is so successful in all his undertakings.”
Warden Emon was very supportive of her as warden, she added.
The warden is the chair of the Renfrew County Ontario Winter Games 2023, she noted.
“This event has some amazing possibilities for our communities,” she said.
“His dedication and tireless work on this venture will not be fully realized until next February,” she noted.
Warden Emon is the longest sitting county councillor at present, Mayor Murphy said.
“I know you are the right person at the right time for this job,” she said.