Coalition of Kingston Communities Voice Concerns Over Procedure for Filling Council Vacancy

Dear Mayor Paterson,

In keeping with the mission of the Coalition of Kingston Communities, that is, “to improve processes of civic engagement and accountability of City Council and City Staff,” I am writing to you to respectfully request that you decide to hold a by-election to fill the vacancy on Council left by Richard Allen’s resignation. Although this letter focuses on the vacancy in Countryside District, the comments are applicable to any vacancy on Council.

According to the Municipal Act, in such situations Council can make an appointment or hold a by-election. An appointment might seem the most efficient course; however, it is plagued with problems of fairness. This is in part because the Act is vague on the matter of how an appointment should be made. There are various possible scenarios, ranging from Council confirming the Mayor’s nomination, an open process of application, or choosing among the failed candidates from the previous election (perhaps failed candidates from all constituencies).

All of these methods of appointment are problematic, and susceptible to criticism from disaffected members of the community.

Choosing among the failed Countryside candidates has the particular problem of seeming to flout the will of the electorate, since the last municipal election, in which turnout in Countryside was particularly high, produced a successful candidate who alone had never represented the district before. To appoint a defeated incumbent would appear to be a repudiation of the will of the people.

A democratic vote would have the merit of producing an outcome that cannot be faulted by anyone, given the fairness of its process. Although holding an election would be more costly, it would be shameful if the City of Kingston decided against democratic process simply on the basis of expense; the value of principles of fair representation cannot be measured in monetary terms. If the next representative for Countryside is to be precisely that, i.e. someone who represents the residents of the district, then it is imperative that those residents get a chance to express their preference.

In sum, on behalf of the Coalition, I do hope that Council affirms the ideals of democracy and that you decide that a by-election should be held to fill the vacant seat in Countryside.

Many thanks for all you do for our wonderful city,

Yours with best wishes for a happy and successful 2017,

Christine Sypnowich

Chairperson, Coalition of Kingston Communities

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