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Oct. 21, 2021 | Thursday
Editorials and Opinions
Editorial: Fill council vacancy by appointment

Stuart McCormack caught his colleagues and Niagara-on-the-Lake residents off-guard last week when he announced he was quitting his job as a town councillor.

We respect McCormack's decision, thank him for his 19 months of service and, as a councillor who shunned the media, for uncharacteristically sharing his resignation letter with The Lake Report so we could share that news with our readers.

But it is now time to move on. The question is: how do we best do so?

In our democratic system, the ideal, fairest and most representative way in which to fulfill the electorate's wishes is to hold a by-election. However, that is a time-consuming and costly option at a time when your municipality – and taxpayers – can ill afford it. Democracy has a price, certainly.

Perhaps if municipal elections, arguably the level of government that is closest to "the people" due its grassroots nature, were more widely embraced by voters, we would feel differently. But municipal elections traditionally attract the lowest voter turnout levels and municipal by-elections attract even fewer people. 

And matters are complicated moreso as we find ourselves in the midst of a global pandemic with little assurance what the next weeks or months hold.

The first step is for NOTL council to officially declare the seat vacant. Then councillors must decide how to fill it.

Our suggestion is to offer the appointment to the person who garnered the next highest vote total among the more than two dozen (!) people who ran for council in 2018. That person is Sandra O'Connor, who finished only 37 votes behind and has expressed interest in the job, but wants to hear what council has to say. 

If, for some reason, O'Connor does not accept an appointment, then we respectfully suggest council offer it to the next-highest finisher. And so on. With 25 candidates last election, there is no shortage of people who were interested in the job.

With a little over two years left in this council's mandate, offering the seat to the person who finished next in line is indeed expeditious, but on balance it seems a fair way to ensure NOTLers have full representation.