Want to be a city councillor? Political push underway to open appointment process to all eligible
Required to fill two recently vacated seats on council, a pair of councillors want to hold an open call for applications.
But don’t bank on it launching a long political career.
Councillor Jesse Helmer and Councillor Maureen Cassidy have sent a letter to their colleagues ahead of next week’s council meeting that seeks to refer the appointment of new councillors to a meeting in mid-November.
Prior to that meeting, eligible applicants would be asked to submit a brief statement explaining why they would like to serve, their experience/qualifications, and whether they intend to seek the same council seat in the fall 2022 municipal election.
Cassidy says the intent of the letter is fairness and transparency, “Providing the opportunity to everybody who might be interested in serving to put their name forward.”
Last week, the Corporate Services Committee recommended council appoint John Fyfe-Millar in Ward 13 because he finished a close second during the 2018 election.
The same committee referred the more recent vacancy in Ward 6 to council without a recommended course of action.
“We should be treating both vacancies at the same time in the same way,” asserts Cassidy.
Councillor Shawn Lewis, however, believes Ward 13 has been without a councillor since August, requiring Fyfe-Millar’s appointment now.
“I reject the idea we need a one size fits all approach,” Lewis says.
He also disagrees with Cassidy’s desire that appointees should have no interest in seeking re-election, “I would rather have somebody who will run again, because then there’s an accountability to the electorate.”
“It’s not long enough for them to have accountability,” responds Cassidy. “The appointees would have the advantage of incumbency, but wouldn’t have a long voting record to be judged on.”
“Incumbency is not invulnerability,” argues Lewis. “I defeated a seven-term, 24-year incumbent. Six of us on council today defeated an incumbent to get their position.”
With two seats out of 15 suddenly vacant around the council horseshoe, the political implications of possible appointments can’t be ignored.
There are deep divisions on city council -- and a year left in the term.
The choices could shift the balance of power.
Informal campaigns and expressions of interest are already underway.
Mike Bloxam, who finished second in 2018 in Ward 6, has sent a letter to councillors promising not to seek re-election.
Dozens of letters supporting Fyfe-Millar as the next councillor in Ward 13 were submitted to the Corporate Services Committee last week.
Several former city councillors have made calls behind the scenes.
“This is not about shifting a balance of power, for me it’s about the best candidate for the job,” says Lewis.
Cassidy says the extra time taken to accept applications would lead to a better process.
“It’s not about a person, it’s not about a name, or who they are aligned with. It’s about an open and transparent process.”
Phil Squire resigned his Ward 6 seat to accept a seat on a provincial tribunal.
Arielle Kayabaga resigned her Ward 13 seat after being elected as the Member of Parliament for London West.
Council will discuss filling the vacancies October 26.