London West was the local riding to watch in Monday’s federal election as city councillor Arielle Kayabaga, running for the Liberals, and Rob Flack of the Conservatives duked it out in a tight race to secure a seat left open by the departure of incumbent Kate Young.
While Flack pulled out ahead early on in the count, it proved fleeting as Kayabaga took the top spot soon afterward, holding it for the remainder of the night and later being projected the winner with a close 4.2 percentage point lead.
Kayabaga’s win marks the first time in many years that a London city councillor has been able to make a successful jump from local to federal politics, which leaves the question: what happens now with her former Ward 13 seat?
Under the Municipal Act, because of her projected London West win, Kayabaga is now ineligible to hold office as a councillor.
As a result, city council must declare her ward seat vacant, and then fill said vacancy within 60 days, either by appointing someone who consents to accept the role, or by passing a bylaw to hold a byelection in the ward.
According to city staff, council is required under the act to declare the vacancy at its next available council meeting, which would be Oct. 5.
A report is slated to go before a special meeting of the Corporate Services Committee (CSC) next week to have council deem the office vacant at its Oct. 5 meeting, said city clerk Cathy Saunders. The exact date and time of that special meeting has not been determined yet.
After council declares the seat vacant, a report will go before the CSC at its Oct. 12 meeting setting out the two options for council to consider when it comes to how the vacancy should be dealt with, she said.
“In the amount of time that I’ve been with the city, which is 12 years, we haven’t had to deal with (a vacancy) as a result of an election to another level of government,” Saunders said. “We’ve had to deal with vacancies for other reasons, but not that.”
Saunders said that should city politicians choose the appointment path over a byelection, the individual put forward would need to be voted on by council. Councillors also have a choice when it comes to what appointment process they wish to follow, she said.
“They can choose someone and appoint someone, or they can do a process where they invite people to submit an application to be considered for appointment and go through that process,” she said.
“That’s the decision that council will need to make in early October if they go with the appointment process.”
Whoever is appointed or elected to fill the Ward 13 seat will hold the position until November 2022, the end of council’s current term.
It remains to be seen who Kayabaga’s successor will be, including whether those under consideration could include the runner-up in the 2018 race, John Fyfe-Millar.
980 CFPL sought comment from Fyfe-Millar on Tuesday about the prospect of him representing Ward 13, but he was unavailable to talk due to a previous commitment.
In a tweet Tuesday morning, he stated he was “over the moon at the opportunity to represent the constituents of Ward 13. It’s the chance of a lifetime to represent the core of our great city.”
Council will have until Dec. 4 to fill the Ward 13 seat after they declare it vacant on Oct. 5, however Saunders notes it’s extremely unlikely that it will take that long.
“This is not something that they haven’t had to deal with before,” she said.
“We’ve had previous councils that had to deal with vacancies, and they dealt with it in a timely manner, and I anticipate that this council will do the same.”