What I want in a new Councillor

Toronto Council Chamber
Toronto Council Chamber

On Monday,
Ward 5 Councillor Peter Milczyn resigned after he won a seat in the Ontario legislature last month.  Adam Vaughan resigned his seat in Ward 20 to run for Parliament in the Federal by-election June 30th.  Both vacancies on Council will be filled the same way Council filled the last vacancy – in Ward 3.  That is, by appointment.

You may remember, that I disagreed with Council’s decision last summer to appoint a replacement for Doug Holyday in Ward 3.  I called it an offence against democracy to appoint a representative, when there was more than enough time to let the people choose for themselves in a By-election.  But, Council didn’t care what the people in Etobicoke-Centre wanted.  They knew what was best for the community.  So, they chose a citizen to join them on Council.

I still believe the decision to not have a by-election last fall was wrong.

That said, I think Ward 3 is well-served by Peter Leon, the Councillor appointed to fill Holyday’s seat.  Etobicoke-Centre may be smart to elect him permanently, should he choose to run in October’s general election.

But, I also recognize, that there is not enough time left now – in the current Council’s tenure – to warrant a by-election.  The next general election is just over three months away.  So, appointment it shall be – for Ward 5 and Ward 20.

Members of Toronto City Council, hear my plea…

It just so happens that I live in Ward 5 – in the eastern part of Etobicoke-Lakeshore.  And, although, Council hasn’t asked my opinion and – no doubt – doesn’t want it, I’m going to offer it anyway.  Right now.

When you gather tomorrow in the Chamber, Ladies and Gentlemen of Toronto City Council, hear one resident’s plea…  Here’s what I want in a new councillor.

First – DO appoint someone who plans to run in my ward in the October election.  For some reason, City Council prefers to appoint people who promise not to run in the next election.  That’s ridiculous.  Anyone who promises not to run is either – lying – or, deadwood.

I want a councillor who is passionate about my community.  I want a councillor who wants the job and who’s willing to run for office.  I would prefer to elect the councillor myself – and will certainly exercise my franchise in October.  But, in the mean time don’t saddle me with an elected representative who doesn’t care enough about the job – or my community – to compete for it in an election.  That does me no good whatsoever.

Second – DON’T appoint someone who applied for the appointment last year in Ward 3.  I don’t want a councillor who’s just in it for the appointment.  I want someone connected to my community – not some political mercenary who throws his or her hat into every opening, hoping to be picked.  Give me someone who thinks my neighbourhood is special – not just available.

For that same reason, DO NOT appoint anyone who is registered to run in October, for election in another ward.  My neighbours and I don’t want to be anyone’s second choice.

Finally – Do NOT pick a dusty old political has-been looking for a retirement top-up.  I want someone reasonably young – certainly younger than me.  Someone ambitious, at the start of his or her career – looking to make a name for herself – full of energy to get things done – someone who wants to go far in life.  Someone who will work damn hard for my community.

A political re-tread does me, and my neighbours, no favours.  Which makes me wonder who an “experienced politician” would do favours for.

So, Toronto City Council.  You didn’t ask for my opinion.  In fact, you didn’t ask for any opinions – from anyone – living in the two wards you’re going to appoint councillors for tomorrow.  But, no one ever said I was a shrinking violet.  So, that’s my opinion – and I hope you consider it when you’re choosing who to impose as my next representative at City Hall.


Towhey’s Take is a regular editorial segment at the end of my Sunday radio program on CFRB Newstalk1010 in Toronto.  It normally airs at about 2:46 pm.  This post is based on an editorial originally broadcast on July 6, 2014.