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Bye, Bye, By-election
Let's make sure the candidates are 'n sync with Kitchener Centre's priorities
Earlier this year, we learned that NDP MPP Laura Mae Lindo, who represents Kitchener Centre, would be stepping down from her position and moving into a teaching role at the University of Waterloo. She officially finished in that role on July 13th. (Here’s a lovely article from the Toronto Star that looks at some of MPP Lindo’s experiences during her time in office.) That of course means there will be a byelection to decide Kitchener Centre’s next Member of Provincial Parliament.
That byelection can’t occur until the sitting MPP formally resigns (which happened yesterday) but must occur within 6 months of that resignation, leaving us with a date no later than January 13th, 2024. Also, “no matter when Ford decides to hold the byelection, under the Ontario Election Act, the byelection would be called on a Wednesday and then held the fifth Thursday after the writ is issued.”
Even as a bit of a local politics nerd, it feels like we have had a lot of elections and general turnover of elected officials lately! Last June we held the provincial election, followed by the municipal election in October. Plus, just this year we have seen three local school board positions filled after unexpected vacancies. And, soon Kitchener Centre voters will have this provincial byelection.
And it seems it is already shaping up to be an interesting one! At the time of writing, three candidates have been announced: Kelly Steiss for the Liberals, Aislinn Clancy for the Greens, and Debbie Chapman for the NDP. The Conservatives have yet to announce a candidate. If you’re thinking that some of those names sound familiar, I’m not surprised! Two of them (Clancy and Chapman) are current Kitchener Councillors, and Kelly Steiss has run previously for the Liberals as well as for Waterloo mayor in 2018.
The interesting part for me, of course, is the fact that if either Clancy or Chapman win the byelection, that will result in an empty seat for Kitchener Council (in either ward 9 or 10). Much like what happened with the local school board vacancies, Kitchener Council will need to decide how to fill that vacancy. They could follow the WCDSB and appoint the runner-up from last fall’s election (that would be Brooklin Wallis in ward 9 or Stephanie Stretch for ward 10) or follow the WRDSB’s lead and appoint someone through an interview process. However, I suspect the most likely result would be a byelection for the Kitchener council seat.
As we wait for that decision to be made, some have wondered what all this means for residents. Firstly, there is no requirement for a city councillor to step down while campaigning for a provincial seat. As stated by Kitchener’s city clerk, Amanda Fusco, “There are currently no provisions in the Municipal Act that require a sitting member of council to take a leave of absence to run for either provincial or federal election, and similarly there are no rules that would require them to stop being paid by the city during that period either.”
However, city councillors are entitled to take up to a three-month leave of absence for any reason. The city clerk notes that, “It would be up to the individual council member to determine what that leave looks like, whether it is an absence with respect to constituent concerns or meetings and voting on matters.” If a councillor takes a leave, staff are able to support residents with questions or concerns, but obviously would not be able to vote on any council motions.
According to this WR Record article, “Clancy said she will take a leave of absence from council when the official election period begins. Chapman hasn’t yet decided how she will handle that decision.” Which makes me think it’s poll time!
While it’s still early in the process, since no byelection has been officially called, WR Record columnist Luisa D’Amato shared a bit about the candidates in this recent piece. According to the article, “Chapman said she’s running because ‘I’m very angry’ about Premier Doug Ford’s move to bring in Bill 23 which, she says, impedes our ability of (deciding) what we want our city to look like.” Meanwhile, Aislinn Clancy is “hoping to build on the success of the riding’s federal representative, Mike Morrice, who is Ontario’s first and only Green Party MP, elected in 2021.” Clancy says, “We’re starting from a really great place.” Kelly Steiss did not respond and the Conservatives have yet to announce their candidate. I look forward to learning more about the candidates’ visions for the province in general and Kitchener Centre specifically.
*My spouse is apparently unsubscribing to Citified now due to today’s title and subtitle, but for everyone else who is hopefully sticking around, feel free to check out this link for some music nostalgia!