In a move to address the prolonged saga surrounding Rural Municipality of Murray Harbour Councillor John Robertson, the Minister of Housing, Land, and Communities for Prince Edward Island, Honourable Rob Lantz, has taken the step of initiating an independent inquiry into Robertson's conduct and response to sanctions levied against him by the Council in December.
Back in September, a sign was posted on a property owned by Councillor Robertson which questioned a the discovery of indigenous mass grave around former residential schools, and called for restoring Sir John A's integrity.
The message read: "Truth: Mass Grave Hoax" and "Reconciliation: Redeem Sir John A's Integrity."
Following an investigation Murray Harbour council suspended Robertson for six months, citing a breach of the code of conduct bylaw. Sanctions were also levied, including a $500 fine and a mandatory apology letter.
When Robertson did not meet the deadline he was given to accept the sanctions, the Murray Harbour council asked the provincial minister to step in.
Once the province stepped in, the situation escalated when Mr. Robertson failed to adhere to a ministerial directive requiring compliance with sanctions imposed by the Rural Municipality of Murray Harbour or resign from his council position prior to December 31st.
Earlier this month the Minsiter extended the deadline as it was reported that Councillor Robertson was out of the country on vacation.
Lantz, in a statement expressed his concern over the prolonged nature of the issue and emphasized the need for a swift resolution. He highlighted that legal services had advised the Department that the current legislation does not empower the Minister to make a final determination without conducting an independent inquiry, despite the municipality's own inquiry into Robertson's conduct.
"On January 22, 2024, I signed an Inquiry Order appointing Mr. Michael Drake of McInnes Cooper to carry out the inquiry into the conduct of Mr. Roberston and the response to sanctions," Lantz said in a statement.
Lantz added, "This matter has gone on for far too long, and we do not want to delay the outcome of this situation any further."
The decision to initiate an inquiry is unprecedented according to the Minister, and Lantz acknowledged the gravity of the situation, stating, "We need to follow the letter of the law concerning the Municipal Government Act so that we are confident a decision can hold up."
The inquiry will delve into the conduct of Councillor John Robertson and assess his response to the sanctions imposed by the Rural Municipality of Murray Harbour.