Monday, November 14, 2011

Region Decides Vacancy on Thursday

Regional Council is poised to decide how to fill a vacancy during our November 17 meeting.

You will recall that since Cindy Forster was elected as the Welland MPP on October 6, she resigned from Regional Council. On October 27, Regional Council formally accepted her resignation and officially declared 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.

Following past practice and in a “spirit of collegiality”, Regional Council asked Welland City Council to consider the matter and offer a recommendation.

After a long debate on a couple of different motions at their November 1 meeting, Welland City Council recommended that the Region fill the seat by holding a by-election.

I understand that this is the first time since the Region was established in 1970 that a City or Town Council has recommended a by-election. Further, I understand that Regional Council has always respected the recommendation of a Town or City Council when filling a vacancy.

If Regional Council supports that recommendation, Welland staff will organize the by-election, but the Region will pay for the election’s “reasonable costs.” The City’s Clerk estimates that a by-election could cost as much as $100,000; Regional staff recommends that the unallocated 2011 surplus – expected to be $1.2 million – could cover those costs.

Last month I wrote that I was most interested in feedback from Welland residents before making up my mind on the matter. I am pleased that I did receive significant feedback by email, phone, and in person. (In fact, more people contacted me now than when Pelham Council faced a vacancy in March 2011!)

Of those Welland residents that provided their opinion, 59% wanted a by-election, 26% preferred the appointment of the third-placed candidate, and 21% wanted another individual to be appointed – either a sitting Welland City Councillor, or a former Welland Mayoral candidate. (The percentages equal more than 100% because 7% suggested two methods.)

I recognize that these results cannot be projected like a “representative sample”, but I sincerely appreciate each person that provided their feedback and opinion.

I look forward to an interesting debate about the vacancy on Thursday.