ANALYSIS: What happens next for Cornwall Council

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By Nick Seebruch
ANALYSIS: What happens next for Cornwall Council
Cornwall City Council Chambers (Nick Seebruch/ Seaway News).

CORNWALL, Ontario – Cornwall City Council has a few decisions ahead of it after it was announced yesterday, June 22, that former Mayor Bernadette Clement would be resigning her position after being appointed to the Senate of Canada.

Currently, the City has an Acting Mayor in Councillor Todd Bennett. Cornwall always has one Councillor ready to serve as an Acting Mayor in case the Mayor is sick, can’t attend a meeting or what have you, and that job rotates among all councillors on a month by month basis.

This still leaves a vacancy on council.

When it comes to filling the job of Mayor, traditionally, Cornwall Council has voted among themselves to fill the position. When Ron Martelle resigned as Mayor in the 1990s Dick Aubry was appointed to replace him.

Seeing as the next municipal election will happen no later than October of 2022, I think that Council will likely vote for a member who has indicated that they will not be seeking re-election.

This makes sense. Taking over the job of Mayor most of the way through a term can be a blessing and a curse. On the one hand, it is an opportunity to have a job few ever get the chance to serve in, but on the other I think it would make it more difficult to run for re-election as an appointed Mayor. As an appointed Mayor, you would be running for re-election for a job you didn’t win the first time, and being so far into the term, you would also have little time to make it your own.

Additionally, I would think that the other councillors around the table would want some one in that job who would not be focused on making a case for re-election. I think that other councillors would want someone who is focused on the business of being Mayor and not on their future political fortunes in 2022.

Once the Mayor’s job is filled, Council will then still have an open seat to address. According to the Municipal Act, if a council seat becomes vacant, a Council must declare that seat to be vacant at their next meeting, they then have 60 days to decide whether to hold a by-election to fill that vacancy, or to appoint someone to fill the seat. If the vacancy occurs within 90 days of the next election, then a council must appoint a replacement.

Again, Cornwall Council traditionally fills vacancies through appointments, and they have done so by appointing the next person who won the most votes in the previous election.

In the last Council that sat from 2014-2018 Denis Carr was appointed to fill the vacancy left by Brock Frost who resigned his position. Carr was the next candidate who received the most votes in the 2014 election, but was shy of getting on Council at that time.

Carr once again finds himself in the position of being invited back to the dance floor late in the evening. Carr, again, was the next candidate who received the most votes in the next election without winning a seat, so he is next in line to fill a Council vacancy.

An interesting piece of local political trivia is that this is at least the fifth council term to see a vacancy occur, making it a tradition dating back almost 20 years now. As stated above the 2014-2018 Council saw Brock Frost resign his position, the term before that from 2010-2014 then Councillor, and future Mayor, Leslie O’Shaughnessy resigned from Council, and the term before that from 2006-2010 saw Councillor Guy Leger pass away before the end of the term, and finally during the 2002-2006 term Councillor Huguette Burroughs passed away before the end of that term.

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