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Incumbent councillors debate dangers of incumbency

Incumbent councillors debate dangers of incumbency

An interesting discussion broke out at Hamilton City Council over the replacement of Chad Collins, the Ward Five councillor who has resigned to take up his duties as MP for Hamilton East-Stoney Creek. The issue of whether to appoint someone to finish out the final year of Collin’s term or to call a by election was disposed of fairly quickly—nobody pressing for a byelection—but the appointment aspect triggered a wide-ranging discussion. Councillors seemed usually anxious that whoever is appointed, be compelled to agree not to run again in next year’s election, lest incumbency provide the appointed individual with an unfair advantage.  Historically if the last four municipal election’s are taken into account, an incumbent Hamilton councillor has a three percent chance of being defeated. Only two incumbents in the last four Hamilton elections were defeated. So councillors, with what statistically at least, amounts to tenure, appeared nonetheless to be anxious that no appointee enjoy the same advantage.

In past there has been a handshake agreement that someone appointed to serve out a council term agree not to run for the post, and there is no evidence that such an undertaking has ever been violated—not in the case of Bob Morrow finishing out the late Bernie Morelli’s term, nor in the case of Terry Anderson’s appointment to replace Donna Skelly when she was elected as an MPP.

The city clerk settled the matter by reminding council that the Municipal Act does not prevent an appointee from running, promise or not. Then the question was raised of whether advertising for candidates should contain language reflecting an equity and inclusion lens and it appears it will.

But Mayor Fred Eisenberger and the majority of those who spoke, made it clear that EDI issues aside, they were looking for someone with experience, preferably someone with council experience.

A motion by Councillor Maureen Wilson to have the various candidates be grilled by councillors in an open session was defeated. Instead candidates will be allowed five minutes to make a presentation to councillors who will then vote based on the presentations alone.

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