London, Ont., councillors Cassidy, Helmer call for application process to fill vacant council seats

London City Hall as seen June 14, 2017. Matthew Trevithick/980 CFPL File

Two London, Ont., city councillors are calling for an open appointment process to fill the vacant council seats left behind in Ward 6 and Ward 13.

London city council is meeting next Tuesday to discuss options on how to fill two vacancies left behind after Arielle Kayabaga and Phil Squires announced their resignations.

Kayabaga stepped down from council after being elected as the MP for London West in last month’s federal election.

Squire resigned last week after being appointed to the Consent and Capacity Board, which is a provincial tribunal that deals with issues of health-care consent in Ontario.

Read more: Committee endorses appointment to fill London, Ont.’s Ward 13 vacancy

Councillors are set to vote next week on if John Fyfe-Miller will serve as the councillor for Ward 13, based on a city committee’s recommendation.

Story continues below advertisement

Fyfe-Miller was the runner-up for that seat in the 2018 municipal election behind Arielle Kayabaga.

The committee approved a motion from Mayor Ed Holder to appoint Fyfe-Millar rather than hold a by-election, but not all on council are on board with this system.

Councillors Maureen Cassidy and Jesse Helmer wrote a letter to fellow councillors recommending that council look at an open appointment process for the two seats, which would mean residents could submit applications for the openings.

“We believe it is important that this process be fair, open and transparent, especially if Municipal Council decides to fill these two vacancies by appointment rather than by holding by-elections,” the letter from the two councillors read.

Story continues below advertisement

The two say both vacancies should be filled in the same way and at the same time, on or before the next council meeting on Nov. 16, 2021.

Read more: Coun. Phil Squire announces resignation from London City Council

“We believe that incumbency is generally a significant advantage in a municipal election campaign and that anyone who is appointed to fill one of these two vacancies should commit to not seeking election to the same council seat in the 2022 election.”

Not being able to seek re-election was a point many on council agreed upon before the motion was approved.

In his motion, Holder stated several reasons against holding a by-election and appointing Fyfe-Miller, one being that Ward 13 has been without representation since mid-August while Kayabaga took a leave of absence to focus on her federal campaign.

In the event of a by-election, new candidates would not end up sitting on council until February, three months before nominations open for the next municipal election in May.

Holder also noted that a by-election would cost upwards of $180,000 and that it would strain the resources required to prepare for the regular municipal election at the end of 2022.

Story continues below advertisement

Helmer and Cassidy are proposing a motion that would implement an application process allowing Fyfe-Million to apply alongside any other people who may wish to fill vacancies.

“I am not a proponent of the second-place finisher filling these seats. I think it needs to be a process where people can apply, give their rationale, give their experience and their qualifications, and let council decide based on the applications we receive,” Cassidy said.

“Democratically, the best option in the best circumstance would be by-election, but we do recognize the tight timelines,” Cassidy said.

The next municipal election is set for Oct. 24, 2022.

— with files from Natalie Love and Andrew Graham

Sponsored content