The mayor and council in the Northern Ontario town of Black River-Matheson, home to a bitter municipal strike that began as a lockout last October, today received notice from the province that their seats had been declared vacant.

“We don’t know yet what this means for us,” said Serge Bouchard, President of CUPE 1490, representing 14 municipal workers, “but it’s the first positive sign we’ve seen in a while.”

The province made the move after council failed to meet and conduct business for more than 60 days.

The labour dispute appeared close to a resolution last month, until, at the eleventh hour, the employer refused to agree to standard return-to-work protocols that would ensure they did not pursue reprisals or investigations into members who walked the picket line.

“This is our home. We want to get back to work and back to healing the divides in our community,” said Bouchard. “It’s remarkable that it’s come to this, but we welcome the province’s decision and the coming municipal election. It’s time that people in this town got the services and representation we all deserve.”