Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Should We Appoint or Hold A By-Election?

Regional Council will need to decide on how to fill a vacancy.

Since Cindy Forster was elected as the Welland MPP on October 6, she resigned from Regional Council. She held that role since December 2006 and was handily re-elected during last fall’s municipal election.

On October 27, Regional Council will formally accept her resignation and officially declare her seat vacant.

The Municipal Act provides two options to fill the vacancy:

First, Regional Council may appoint an “eligible” person within 60 days of declaring a seat vacant. An eligible person includes someone who consents to the appointment, and is a Canadian citizen who is at least 18 years old and resides in Niagara.

Second, Council may hold a by-election. An eligible candidate would have to fulfill the same criteria as above. Because Niagara’s Towns and Cities organize municipal elections, the City of Welland would run a by-election. Media reports indicate that Welland City staff guesstimate that a by-election could cost as much as $100,000; those costs would be borne by the Region, not the City.

Vacancies on Councils have occurred before. Prior to making its decision and in a spirit of collegiality, Regional Council usually seeks the advice of the City or Town Council about their preferred method of filling the vacancy.

For example, when Rob Nicolson – one of three Niagara Falls Regional Councillors – was elected as Niagara Falls MP in 2004, Regional Council sought the advice of the Niagara Falls Council; interestingly, the City Council did not offer a preferred method to fill the vacancy.

When Mike Collins passed away in 2009, the Region asked St. Catharines Council for input; they suggested that Regional Council appoint the next candidate – Carlos Garcia – from the long list of those who ran for the six St. Catharines seats.

On the advice of Grimsby Council, Regional Council appointed Bob Bentley – a Town Councillor at the time – to fill the vacancy created when Debbie Zimmerman was elected Regional Chair; then, Grimsby held a by-election to fill their vacant Council seat.

Finally, you will recall that following the resignation of Debbie Urbanowicz from Pelham Council last spring, Pelham held a by-election to fill the vacancy; Richard Rybiak won that June election.

Before the issue comes to the Region, I am very interested in hearing your views; quite frankly, since this new Councillor will serve Welland, I am most interested in hearing feedback from Welland residents directly at mayordave@pelham.ca. (You can also call me at 905-892-2607 ext. 317.)

Residents may also contact their Councillors directly; for their contact information, please go to www.welland.ca or www.niagararegion.ca.

UPDATE -- As of November 1, 2011:
I have received responses from 46 Welland residents regarding the issue of filling the vacancy.

30 (65%) said they wanted a by-election
8 (17%) said they wanted the third place candidate in the Regional Council election
8 (17%) said they wanted an appointment, but suggested someone else than the next candidate -- some of these said definitely not the third place candidate, others suggested a Welland City Councillor, and the rest named various other people.