London Council Committee proposes to appoint John Fyfe-Millar in Ward 13
Pending a full council vote later this month, John Fyfe-Millar took the first step towards becoming London’s next councilor in Ward 13. The seat fell vacant when Arielle Kayabaga won the constituency of London West in the federal election last month.
In a 3-2 vote, the corporate services committee of council on Tuesday approved a motion by Mayor Ed Holder to nominate Fyfe-Millar to take the seat until the municipal election next October.
The decision to appoint Fyfe-Millar was not without controversy. Under provincial rules, the council can appoint someone to fill a vacant position or hold a by-election. City staff have recommended not holding byelections, citing tight deadlines and pressure on resources with a full election just one year away.
Com. Stephen Turner told the committee that a by-election was the only fair way to fill the seat. Others, like the Council. Jesse Helmer, spoke in favor of a nomination but only if the nominee agrees not to stand for re-election so as not to give them an advantage over the entire election. He suggested finding a former advisor to fill the position, which happened in 2014 and it’s something that committee chair Maureen Cassidy also supports.
I do not support the nomination of someone who intends to run in the municipal elections of 2022. This is in the category of very bad ideas and it breaks with the norm of appointing a former member to fill the vacant position. (if there is no by-election to allow residents to decide). #ldnont
Fyfe-Millar finished second behind Kayabaga in the 2018 election, a sign in the eyes of some advisers that his nomination would reflect the will of the voters in a preferential ballot. Over 70 letters were also sent to the committee in support of his nomination, including many from business owners who expressed concern about leaving the seat vacant until February, when a winner of the ‘a by-election would take the seat.
Speaking in favor of Fyfe-Millar’s nomination, Holder said the 2018 election results should be taken into consideration.
“Support for Mr. Fyfe-Millar is not in the sense of a party,” Holder said. “The problems facing the city center are too great to go without representation for six months.”
Other advisers have argued that basing Fyfe-Millar’s nomination on the result of the preferential ballot is a distortion of voters’ intention.
“It is a great abomination as to what classified ballots mean and what they represent,” said Turner.
Fyfe-Millar has been active at Town Hall for the past several years, with past service as Chairman of the Real Estate Standards Committee and the Adjustment Committee.
The committee voted 3-2 to support the motion of Holder, Holder, Michael VanHolst and Josh Morgan voting for and Elizabeth Peloza and Cassidy voting against.
The decision to appoint Fyfe-Millar will then go to the full board.
What about district 6?
In a strange twist, just as the members of the Corporate Services Committee sat down to discuss how to fill the Kayabaga seat, they learned that there would be an unexpected second vacancy to be managed.
Com. Phil Squire appeared before the committee to inform them that he was stepping down immediately to accept an appointment to the Consent and Capacity Board of Ontario. The quasi-judicial tribunal makes decisions about the ability of people to make their own decisions about their medical care.
Instead of making a similar decision on how to fill Ward 6, the committee voted to postpone it until the seat was officially declared vacant at the October 26 council meeting. Mike Bloxam finished second behind Squire in 2018 and told CBC News he would be interested in taking the job if the council took a similar approach in the North London neighborhood.
Some town hall observers took to social media to say the same process should be used to fill both vacancies.
Regardless of how the seats are filled, who will occupy them will not be without consequences. The Margins of One Vote decided a number of key issues in a divided board.