Monday, November 11, 2013

Should We Appoint or Hold A By-Election?

As you know, Larry Clark resigned from Town Council effective November 5 because he and his family will be moving back to British Columbia in February. He served as Councillor since 2010 and will be missed for offering a common-sense approach while representing Ward One residents. Council accepted his resignation “with regret” on November 4.

During our November 18 Council meeting, we will officially declare the seat “vacant.” Later that evening, during our Committee meeting, Councillors will discuss a report outlining the options to fill the seat.

Vacancies like this have occurred three times in Pelham’s history. The first was in 1972 when a Councillor died while in office. Since the vacancy occurred within 90 days before the next election, Council followed the Municipal Act and did not fill the vacancy.

The second time was in 2008, when Malcolm Allen was elected to the House of Commons. With two-years remaining in the term, Council appointed the candidate who placed third in Ward One in the 2006 Municipal Election – James Lane.

The third time was in 2011 after Debbie Urbanowicz resigned for personal and health reasons three-months into our current, four-year term. At first, a majority of Councillors voted to call for applicants and vet them behind closed doors. However, because of the strong, negative community reaction, Council agreed to hold a by-election. That’s how Councillor Rybiak was elected in June 2011.

Essentially, the Municipal Act provides two options to fill a Council vacancy:

First, Council may hold a by-election. Eligible candidates must be Canadian citizens who are at least 18 years old and reside in the Town. (In March 2011, Staff estimated the cost for a by-election at approximately $8,000.)

Second, Council may appoint an “eligible” person within 60 days of declaring a seat vacant. An eligible person consents to the appointment and meets the above criteria for election.

Some Councils simply appoint the candidate who came next in the previous election; in this case, following his 2008 appointment, James Lane came third in the 2010 general election and second in the 2011 by-election.

Other Councils call for applicants and interview candidates in full, public view; the voting also occurs in full, public view. The City of Toronto used this process in October when they appointed Peter Leon to replace Doug Holyday (who was elected to the Ontario Legislature in August).

Before our discussion next Monday, I am very interested in hearing your views; please call me or email me at You may also want to speak to your Councillors directly; please click here for their contact info on the Town of Pelham website.