Sandy Casselman 
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

EMBRUN – “I have difficulty [seeing] the purpose of this motion,” Coun. André Brisson said. “If you have a problem with this committee, why did you not just go to the committee and share your concerns?”

Brisson’s comments were aimed at township of Russell Mayor Pierre Leroux during the May 17 council meeting. Leroux put forth a motion, which was seconded by Coun. Jamie Laurin, to forward tree coverage and green space improvement ideas to the Environmental Advisory Committee (EAC) and to encourage the EAC to “take a more proactive role in advising and making recommendations to council on environmental-related matters and practices within the township.

Brisson said with the motion directed at only one of council’s committees, it looks as though he is “trying to make trouble.” Leroux denied the accusation, noting that he has made the request to council verbally many times in the past and he is now making it “on paper.” He also said the purpose of council committees has always been to make recommendations to council. In addition, both he and Laurin said they had received many resident concerns about tree coverage and felt it necessary to act by introducing the motion

“One of the main reasons why I seconded the notice of motion was specifically the comments that have been made over the last year,” Laurin said, listing the many times council has discussed various tree-related situations. “Comments that I’ve received over the last little bit is that council isn’t doing anything in regard to trees and obviously that’s not the case. We’re doing a lot right now, but we could be doing a little bit more.

Councillor Cindy Saucier, the council representative chairing the EAC, listed the group’s projects and activities. She said she has only been on the committee since 2015 and in the past year it has been difficult to meet or do anything due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The group is working on a tree bylaw, she said, but it is not ready for council approval. She said other recommendations have been made to council but were denied

“I understand some recommendations have come to council. Some were approved, some were not. But the reason we’re looking for recommendations is because if we simply talked about stuff at this level and never approved stuff, then we’d never get anywhere,” Leroux said. “I know there’s often the sentiment that we can’t recommend that because council won’t approve it, but that’s council’s decision. The role of the committees is to provide recommendations to council. That’s why in 2019 I asked all committees to review their Terms of Reference; tree coverage is a topic dear to a lot of us.

Leroux said the bylaw Saucier and the EAC have been working on is for tree cutting, not tree coverage, which are two separate issues. He said staff is working on a tree coverage bylaw. He also said staff activity doesn’t count as committee activity. Leroux suggested the committee review all recommendations made in the last 10 years to see what staff is doing versus what the committee is doing.

CAO Jean Leduc said staff had discussed this notice of motion prior to the meeting. In response, he said staff is compiling a report for council outlining all activities, projects, and monies spent in relation to environmental concerns. It was noted the report could be beneficial for the committee.

The motion was unanimously approved, but with a side note from Brisson saying he felt it was inappropriate. Council members recognized the many contributions of every council committee’s resident volunteers.

“Hopefully, everyone goes back to their committees and starts implementing this to make recommendations,” Laurin said.