Vacant seat on Belleville, Ont., city council to likely be filled Monday

Click to play video: 'Vacant seat on Belleville, Ont., city council likely filled Monday'
Vacant seat on Belleville, Ont., city council likely filled Monday
WATCH: On Wednesday, Belleville city councillors turned down a recommendation to fill a vacant council seat. Now, a runner-up is likely to be given the position. – Jan 21, 2021

Belleville city council is inching closer to filling its vacant seat.

Months after the death of long-time councillor Pat Culhane, a report came before council Wednesday with a recommended replacement, which resulted in five councillors voting against the committee’s report.

One of the factors may have been a public outcry.

Multiple councillors tell Global News they have been bombarded with emails and phone calls from constituents as to how the city should replace Culhane.

“They wanted to be able to say they voted for the person who was being sworn in,” said councillor Garnet Thompson.

“There is strong public support for using a process that was adopted 15 years ago, which was to appoint the next-in-line candidate,” said councillor Bill Sandison.

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Waiting in the wings would be local business owner Tyler Allsop, who received the second-most votes in Ward 1 during the last municipal election.

However, one city councillor is not giving in to the public outcry. Councillor Kelly McCaw believes the committee’s recommendation of Jennifer McTavish shouldn’t be ignored.

She says Allsop has been vocal on social media about how he “was too busy” to be a member of municipal politics in the past.

“He posted something on his Facebook stating that he had not intended to run for municipal politics given how his life had changed and expected to be too busy to run, and I take him at his word,” said McCaw.

Click to play video: 'Belleville committee set to move forward to fill Pat Culhane’s council seat'
Belleville committee set to move forward to fill Pat Culhane’s council seat

She wasn’t the only elected official to vote in favour of the recommended replacement. Sandison and Mayor Mitch Panciuk also approved the report on Wednesday. However, both changed their stance on Thursday.

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“When I saw that council would be deadlocked, we had to consider an alternative,” said Mayor Panciuk.

That alternative is Allsop.

If he is appointed to the vacant seat, there would be just one woman on council and no one of colour — an issue Panciuk was hoping to address with this recent process.

“How can we properly give voice to those people who don’t see themselves and didn’t participate?” said Panciuk.

“The number one job of a mayor is to give voice to those, and I will continue to do that, and I’m calling on my colleagues to walk the talk about how they believe in inclusion, but they also believe in proper representation, but they also believe in the democratic process, and it’s up to them to walk the talk.”

Allsop told Global News over the phone on Thursday that he’s not getting his hopes up until after Monday’s vote, but says he is ready to serve the City of Belleville.

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