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Collingwood council preparing for potential empty mayor's seat

Brian Saunderson is on a leave to run for provincial election, in the meantime council ponders whether to fill the empty seat if he's elected
2019-02-13 SaundersonCounty JO-001
Collingwood Mayor Brian Saunderson's nameplate in the County of Simcoe council chambers. Jessica Owen/CollingwoodToday

If Brian Saunderson is elected as Simcoe-Grey’s MPP in June, Collingwood council may finish the year with eight members instead of nine. 

Collingwood council took a step toward figuring out how that hypothetical process should play out at Monday’s (May 2) strategic initiatives standing committee meeting, voting to recommend appointing Deputy Mayor Keith Hull to the seat after July 26.

Coun. Chris Carrier questioned why the decision on a path forward needed to be made now.

“What’s the rush?” asked Carrier. “Personally, I’d rather wait to see what happens June 2 and have this come back before us after the provincial election and make a decision then.”

Carrier asked for a deferral on the matter to the June strategic initiatives standing committee meeting, however it was defeated by a vote of 6-2 with Carrier and Coun. Mariane McLeod in favour.

Coun. Steve Berman, on the other hand, asked why there would be a delay until July 26 to appoint anyone.

“If Brian is elected on June 2... I would want the deputy mayor appointed ASAP,” said Berman. “I think it’s in the best interest of all residents to have a full council table.”

On April 20, Mayor Brian Saunderson commenced an unpaid leave of absence to focus on his campaign for MPP of Simcoe-Grey under the Progressive Conservative banner. The mayor's seat cannot be declared vacant during a leave of absence.

As a result and for as long as the mayor is on a leave of absence, Deputy Mayor Keith Hull has moved to the position of acting mayor and Coun. Mariane McLeod has moved to the position of acting deputy mayor.

Coun. Bob Madigan is the County of Simcoe councillor alternate, while Coun. Deb Doherty has been appointed to act in the absence of the Acting Mayor/Deputy Mayor.

Should Saunderson be elected MPP, Clerk Sara Almas said his mayor seat would be declared vacant by a council resolution following either the receipt of a written notice of resignation provided to the clerk or confirmation of the announcement in the Ontario Gazette, whichever is earlier.

Berman also asked for a friendly amendment to have the appointment occur as soon as possible after the possible provincial election results are verified.

Coun. Deb Doherty noted that the changes could possibly occur very close to council’s lame-duck period. Coun. Yvonne Hamlin agreed.

“It seems to me that the process could wind up being disruptive,” said Doherty. She noted that waiting until the July 26 date to appoint would mean that it wouldn’t be necessary for council to appoint a new person to fill a vacant councillor seat.

If the appointment occurred prior to July 26, the vacant council seat left over would have to be filled.

Other options offered to council for consideration as part of the staff report included electing someone to fill the seat from the current council pool, inviting applications from the electorate or appointing an eligible candidate from the most recent election/or from a previous term of council. None of the other options were tabled for consideration during Monday’s meeting.

Council voted 4-4 to defeat a motion to appoint the deputy mayor to fill the mayor’s seat prior to July 26, with Couns. Doherty, Carrier, McLeod and Madigan opposed. They then voted 6-2 to appoint the deputy mayor to fill the mayor’s seat after July 26, which means they won’t have to fill the leftover vacant seat. Couns. Kathy Jeffery and Berman were opposed.

The decision will need to be ratified at a council meeting later this month before going into effect.

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Jessica Owen

About the Author: Jessica Owen

Jessica Owen brings 15 years of experience to her role as reporter for Village Media, primarily covering Collingwood and education.
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