Barring some mysterious circumstance – such as an alien invasion – voters in the provincial riding of Flamborough-Glanbrook will elect either current Ward 7 City Councillor Donna Skelly – on the Progressive Conservative ticket – or current Ward 15 City Councillor Judi Partridge – on the Liberal ticket – as their new Member of Provincial Parliament.
This means Council will need to appoint a replacement City Councillor for the remainder of the winner’s term on Council, which runs until November 30.
(Legally, Council can choose to call a special by-election. This is impractical as the newly elected replacement would have to immediately seek reelection during the regular municipal election on October 22nd)
Section 9 of the Legislative Assembly Act states the winner is deemed to have resigned from the municipal council upon the publication of the election returns in the Ontario Gazette. This is expected to occur on or about June 23rd.
Section 263 of the Municipal Act requires Council to fill the vacancy by appointment or by-election, the only exception is when a vacancy occurs 90 days prior to the regular municipal election. (This year’s election date is October 22, the 90 days begins on July 24)
Council will have 60 days to appoint the replacement Councillor. (Section 263 allows Council to alternatively pass a by-law within 60 days calling for a by-election, as earlier noted, this is impractical)
For political practicality, Council will need to find an interim councillor who is uncontroversial. For their own interests, they’ll want to appoint someone that is part of Hamilton’s political class.
Council faced a similar election year appointment near the end of the last term.
In 2014, Ward 3 Councillor Bernie Morelli died on January 14. It was an election year, with voting day on October 27.
Council choose – for similar reasons of political practicality – to fill the vacancy by appointment.
Former old City of Hamilton Mayor Bob Morrow was appointed to fill the seat. Unusually, Council did not invite applications, discussed Morrow’s nomination among themselves in private, and quickly appointed Morrow less than a month after Morelli’s death. Morrow was appointed on February 6.
As a former Mayor, out of politics for 13 years, and a former Citizenship Court Judge, Morrow was seen as an elder statesman and a relatively uncontroversial choice. He was willing and able to act in the role.
Who Can Fill the Seat That is Part of Council’s Circle?
Currently, Hamilton has three living former mayors.
Bob Bratina is the Member of Parliament for Hamilton East – Stoney Creek, and cannot sit on Council as a MP.
Larry DiIanni is presently working as a political consultant (lobbyist) and remains heavily engaged in local political commentary, including enjoying the odd Twitter fight. He’s not a conventional choice, and he would have to leave his successful consultancy to sit on Council.
Bob Wade, who served as the new City of Hamilton’s first Mayor from 2001 to 2004, is a respected figure and has not been engaged in any political activities since voluntarily retiring from politics. However, it is unlikely he’ll leave retirement to sit as an interim Councillor.
This leaves Council with few choices if they wish to fill the vacancy with someone in their circle.
The most obvious choice is former Ward 13 Dundas City Councillor Russ Powers.
Powers’ political career begin in 1982 when elected to the Town of Dundas Council. He left Council between 2004 and 2006 when was elected as Member of Parliament. (Power’s triggered a Council by-election, resigning only months into that Council term) Powers voluntarily retired from City Council in 2014.
Powers presently holds provincial appointments as Chair of the Niagara Escarpment Commission, and Chair of the Hamilton Grant Review Team of the Ontario Trillium Foundation.
The primary role of the interim Councillor will be to assist Council in making quorum, and fielding calls from constituents. Powers maintained a good attendance record as Councillor, and knows how to manage constituency affairs.
The Silver Lining of Nomination Day
If Powers is not willing to be tapped on the shoulder, Council will need to put some thought into who they appoint.
There is a silver lining for Council in this appointment process, they can make the appointment after the close of nominations on July 27, ensuring that whomever they appoint is not running in the October municipal election.
Traditionally, municipal councils are loath to appoint an interim councillor without written assurance that they will not seek election in the next vote. Those written assurances hold no legal force, this time, Council won’t need it.
There is one quirk that could influence Council’s decision making – the risk of a Lame Duck Council under Section 275 of the Municipal Act starting at 2pm on July 27. More on this in my next column.