The Toronto District School Board has voted in favour of holding two byelections to fill trustee seats left vacant during October’s provincial election.
At a Nov. 16 board meeting, trustees voted to send constituents to the polls in Wards 17 and 20, formerly represented by Michael Coteau and Soo Wong, who won seats as Liberal MPPs.
Under the Education Act, a school board has the authority to appoint replacements, but longtime trustee Sheila Cary-Meagher said she supported byelections as a matter of democratic principle.
“It’s expensive. It’s annoying. We just went through all these elections but the fact is, the backbone of democracy is being able to vote,” she said.
Cary-Meagher said timing was also a factor, given that trustees are only one year into a four-year term.
If Toronto was closer to a general election year, Cary-Meagher said she would have supported an appointment with the caveat that the appointee could not run in the election.
“But three years? I don’t think so,” she said. “It used to be that was a whole term.”
Eglinton-Lawrence trustee Howard Goodman said he was disappointed with the decision, saying it will only add to the dire financial straits the board is currently trying to manage.
Though earlier projections suggested two byelections would cost the board roughly $750,000, estimates are now in the range of $440,000 to $500,000.
“A half-million dollars is a half-million dollars and to generate 3,000 votes, I don’t think it’s a good way of spending money,” Goodman said. “Our job is primarily to look after the interests of our students, and this isn’t it.”
The funding will be culled from salaries saved from the seat vacancies, a subsidies budget provided to community organizations that rent school facilities, and the board’s general governance budget. Funding that was supposed to fill a vacancy in the business services department is also being re-directed to byelection costs, Goodman said.
Weeks before the vote, Goodman had put forth a motion recommending a committee of community stakeholders in each ward make the appointments.
Cary-Meagher said she was appalled the provincial government has left the school board to shoulder the cost.
“This is the first time that I can ever remember that being the case,” she said.
Given the authority of the board to appoint a trustee, the ministry declined requests for byelection funding.
Nominations are now open for the office of trustee for Wards 17 and 20. The byelections will be held on Feb. 27, 2012.
About this article: