Next week City Council will make a very important decision on how we will select a new councillor for Countryside District. The City Clerk has presented us with 3 options: appoint the 2nd place finisher from the 2014 election, appoint another member of the public through a nominations process, or hold a by-election.
Since former councilor Richard Allen announced his resignation late last month, I have heard from many residents, from both Countryside and across the community, about which of the options they believe is the best. After careful consideration of all points of view, and reviewing the latest information from city staff, I will be asking Council to support a by-election to elect a new councilor.
This is by no means an easy decision for me, because a by-election comes at a cost of $150,000 and it is the option with the longest time frame (the Clerk has provided timelines indicating the election cannot occur until mid-May). However, there are significant reasons why I believe, despite the time and cost involved, a by-election is the best option.
- The new councilor must have a clear mandate from Countryside residents. Although there will be only a year and a half remaining in the council term by the time this new councilor is elected, there will be several big decisions in that time frame, on issues as the Third Crossing, the future of KP and the Wellington Street extension.
- The councilor for the city’s primary rural district should be chosen by rural residents, and not by other councilors who represent urban areas of the city. The rural area of Kingston is distinctive, and Countryside residents are best suited to choose a representative that reflects their views and priorities. A strong majority of Countryside residents that I have heard from have asked for a by-election to choose their new councillor. As the current interim councilor for Countryside district, it’s important for me to advocate on their behalf.
- A by-election is the most transparent option for selecting a new councilor. Candidates who choose to run in the by-election will need to inform residents where they stand on key issues and what they aim to bring to the council table. While the legitimacy of a council appointment could be debated, there will be no question as to the legitimacy and the mandate of the winner of a by-election.
I take very seriously the expenditure of $150,000 on a by-election. This is a significant sum of money, but, the fact is democracy comes with a cost. I think we can all agree that supporting a transparent and truly representative process will be money well spent.