The County of Elgin is governed by a Warden and 8 Councillors. Councillors are elected every four years and the Warden is elected every year by members of County Council.

The current Elgin County Warden is Duncan McPhail

Warden Photo

Municipality:   West Elgin
Office:   Mayor/ Elgin County Warden 2018/2019

The Warden, Duncan McPhail, has returned from time off in politics after a 16 year lay off.  This will be his third stint as Warden for Elgin County having also served in 2000 and 2001.

The Warden belongs to the Dispute Resolution, Human Resources, the POA Court Facility, the Terrace Lodge Building, Western Ontario Wardens Caucus, and Community Leaders Cabinet Committees.

It’s a pleasure to stand before you as your Warden for 2019. What do I see in this room? It reads like a Christmas Story – three members Council present, three members of Council past, and three members of what is yet to come. I am looking forward to the achievements of this Council over the next four years.

It is often said that “history repeats itself”. I have had the pleasure of standing in these chambers when a young man from Burlington accepted the position to replace then County Clerk George Leverton. He has never been a CAO before, but we soon found out he had talent, a work ethic, and a vision that Elgin County so needed. Here we are about 25 years later with a new CAO of our own. She has worked through the first year facing many challenges, but she also has the talent, work ethic, and vision that will help Council during the next four years.

Back in 1998, it was Council’s objective to let our new CAO spread his wings and fly – always knowing that Council was the ultimate decision maker. This took us for quite a ride, and look at the progress we have made! We have the same opportunity again with our new CAO, so let us take the wisdom from the past and apply it to the future. Let Council help her spread her wings and see where it takes us!

We must set our goals high both for Council and for staff – not only do the citizens expect the best service, they deserve it! I believe it is important to remember that falling short of our goals should not be considered a failure. Not setting our goals high enough would be the real failure. So how do we go about mapping the path forward?

Some of the items Council must make a priority are Terrace Lodge and the upcoming relocation of the POA facilities. We have a bridge to build and we need to map out our assets management plan. These items are just the start of what council will have to face. We have many more issues than we have time to discuss this evening, but Council will deal with them in priority over the next four years.

We need an action plan that Council and staff will develop. We must make this plan transparent to citizens and we must keep them informed, as well as work with stakeholders moving forward. We must prioritize, plan, consult, and execute. I feel that this Council fully understands where we are. We must rely on our returning Council members to help us form a solid foundation for moving forward. This will establish a seamless tradition.

I would like to take a moment to comment on the importance of an election for this position. As you can see we have assembled a substantial number of members of the communities. Elections provide council with a choice, stimulate debate and open conversations. They engage our citizens. They are our biggest supporters and our most valuable critics. And, if we fail to engage them, how will we ever hope to engage the public?

Yes, we have many challenges, but always remember that we are “progressive by nature” because we have many strengths. Let this Council be known as the bridge building Council, but not out of steel and concrete (O.K., yes we do have one of those to build), but I suggest we build bridges to each other and to our staff. And, to our member municipalities, we need strong bridges on good foundations. Most importantly, as we all know the chaos that can be cause when a bridge collapses, we must all realize the bridges we build for our citizens must be the best quality at the best possible price.

Thank you.

According to the Handbook of Upper Canadian Chronology, the Warden was the Chairman of the District Council after 1841. He was appointed by the Provincial Government until 1846 and then elected by the Councillors from among their members. Usually after 1846 he held the office for only one year.

The District Councils Act 1841, Legislative Assembly of the Province of Canada (4 – 5 Victoria, Chapter 10, Appendix X, gives specific instructions to Wardens which are paraphrased below:

  • The Warden was empowered to appoint a temporary District Clerk
  • The Warden, at the first quarterly meeting each year, nominated an auditor while a second auditor was elected by the Council
  • The Warden had the right to name the District Surveyor
  • The Warden, as chairman of the Council, was frequently called upon to impose his advice and authority; to regulate the mode of passing by-laws; to suggest useful and prevent the enactment of mischievous or unlawful measures; and to watch that the conditions required by the Ordinance to legalize those proceedings be faithfully observed.
  • The Warden was directed to transmit to the Governor an annual statement of the Accounts

The role and responsibility of the Warden in 1841 is perhaps best described in the following quotation :

“It is the earnest desire of His Excellency the Governor General, that you should assiduously endeavour to master the details. It is impossible to exaggerate the importance of the trust committed to your hands, or the beneficial influence which those laws, faithfully and zealously carried out, may exercise over the destinies of the Province. It is above all things essential that the Wardens should well understand their principles and leading provisions. Wardens, as the name imports, are guardians and defenders: they ought to be guardians of the rights and interests of the people, and defenders of the prerogative of the Crown. The instructor as well as protector of the inferior officers of his District, the Warden will often have to impart to them the information required for their guidance. A due performance of which task, with all the patience, sagacity and zeal it demands, will go far to insure an uniform and prosperous working of the system.”

(Signed) D. Daly,

Secretary of the Province

Remarkably, today, the role of the Warden bears similar resemblance to that envisioned in 1841. Sections 69 and 70 of the New Municipal Act describe the position of Warden as follows:

69.(1) The Warden of a county, the mayor of a city or town and the reeve of a village or township is the head of the council and the chief executive officer of the corporation.

70. It is the duty of the head of the council,

(a) to be vigilant and active in causing the laws for the government of the municipality to be duly executed and obeyed;

(b) to oversee the conduct of all subordinate officers in the government of it and, as far as practicable, cause all negligence, carelessness and violation of duty to be prosecuted and punished; and

(c) to communicate to the council from time to time such information and recommend to it such measures as may tend to the improvement of the finances, health, security, cleanliness, comfort and ornament of the municipality. R.S.O. 1990,c.M.45,d.70.