Indications are this spring’s by-election in Langton-area Ward 2 could be a competitive one.
At its committee meeting last week, Norfolk council endorsed a resolution in favour of a byelection. Council briefly re-visited the idea of appointing a replacement for former Coun. Roger Geysens at its regular meeting Tuesday before affirming its support of a public ballot.
The fact Delhi Coun. Mike Columbus switched his support from an appointment to a byelection Tuesday confirmed that the race is on. Columbus has heard from half a dozen individuals in Ward 2 who are interested in putting their names on the ballot.
“That changes my thinking on this,” he said. “We’re not going to win on this no matter what we do. Someone will be unhappy with the process.”
Port Dover Coun. Amy Martin brought the matter to the floor during Tuesday’s proceeding. Martin favours an appointment because it is faster, less expensive and eliminates public-health risks arising from a campaign during a pandemic.
Martin cited the results of an unscientific poll from the website Survey Monkey which suggests support for an appointment. The informal survey drew 94 in favour versus 63 supporting a byelection. Martin noted the Grand Erie District School Board recently filled a vacant trustee seat through appointment.
The vacancy in Ward 2 arose in December when council veteran Roger Geysens – a member of the inaugural Norfolk council of 2001 – announced his retirement from municipal politics.
Mayor Kristal Chopp supports a byelection because it gives Ward 2 a say in who will represent it for the next two years. Chopp warned councillors they will bear responsibility for the appointment if residents of north-west Norfolk are unhappy with their choice.
Chopp also questioned whether an appointment is faster than a byelection. A list of questions will have to be drawn up, the mayor said, adding there should be a process for Ward 2 residents to contribute if that is the route council takes.
Chopp said “an evaluation matrix” to rate the applicants would also have to be devised. Then there is the interview process itself, which can be time-consuming.
Chopp also noted council has deadlocked 4-4 on key questions several times since Geysens’ departure. What if the appointment process reaches the same dead-end, the mayor asked.
“That process is going to take about 10 weeks – about the same amount of time as a democratic election,” Chopp said.
Tuesday’s vote in favour of a byelection was 5-2. Unable to attend Tuesday’s meeting due to a prior commitment was Simcoe Coun. Ian Rabbitts.
Clerk Andy Grozelle said nomination papers will be available to candidates this week. The 6,000 electors of Ward 2 will have the option of voting by mail. Nominations close April 16, with Grozelle expecting the successful candidate to be seated in May.