Huntsville council could face tough decision if Aitchison resigns for a seat in Ottawa

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To appoint someone as Mayor or to call a by-election. That could be a question Huntsville councillors will have to vote on if Mayor Scott Aitchison resigns.

Aitchison would not technically be required to step down as Mayor of Huntsville unless he gets the Conservative Party nomination to run in the upcoming federal election, wins the election, and then gets sworn in as the Parry Sound-Muskoka Member of Parliament.

If the Mayor is selected as the Muskoka-Parry Sound representative for the PC Party he is not obligated to take a leave from his position.    Huntsville CAO Denise Corry.

“There’s no protocol in place that would make it mandatory that the Mayor take a leave, that would strictly be his decision. So he would still be Mayor until such time as the election occurred and if he was successful in the election and was elected as the MP representative, by virtue of that election when he was sworn in, his position will have been deemed vacant,” said Corry.

While that may not sit well with opposition parties in the riding, particularly if the Mayor is perceived to be campaigning while fulfilling mayoral duties such as ribbon-cuttings, Aitchison said he plans on taking a leave of absence during the campaign.

“I have said all along that if I win the nomination, when the writ is dropped—so when the election actually begins—I will ask council to take a leave of absence and ask Karin [Deputy Mayor Karin Terziano] to fill in during the election. Then after I win the election I’d like to come back and say thank you to everybody and farewell and officially resign,” said an optimistic Aitchison.

He said if nominated he would step away as Mayor to focus on getting a seat in Ottawa. Currently, on top of being Huntsville Mayor, Aitchison also has a real estate career and is actively campaigning on the Conservative riding nomination. It’s a little hectic, said Aitchison, “But that’s what you do, all you do is work. I’m good with that. I don’t have to worry about you know taking my kid to soccer.”

If he’s elected, Huntsville council will have a decision to make. Their options will be to either appoint a Mayor to replace him or run a by-election, which could cost upwards of $60,000. There are arguments on both sides of the spectrum. Some argue that the position is too important to appoint someone to fill it, while others argue that a by-election would be too costly. Ultimately, the decision would be put to a vote around the council table. Aitchison would not indicate what his own preference might be in the event that he resigns.

“That decision will be made by council at that time. I probably won’t be a part of it and council is elected to make decisions on behalf of the people and they’ll make the right decision probably by consulting with the community and asking them what they’d like them to do,” said Aitchison. “I’m sure that there will be people who lobby hard for an election, I’m sure there’ll be people who lobby hard to appoint, but at the end of the day council will make the decision and I’m sure it’ll be a good decision.”

If council were to decide by a majority vote to appoint an existing council member to the position of Mayor, that vacant position would also then have to be filled.

Once a position has been declared as vacant, the municipality would have 60 days to either appoint someone to fill it or call a by-election. The position would not have to be filled if a regular municipal election were scheduled to take place within a 90-day period.

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6 Comments

  1. Democratic principles should be at the forefront of any decision made by Council despite their ability to act independently. Yes, it would be time taking, inconvenient and have costs associated with it BUT this current council is one (1) year into their mandate and with three quarters of their term ahead of them, they need to honour the electorate in Huntsville.
    It is unacceptable for Councillors of good faith to consider ANY option other than a by-election allowing the people of Huntsville to decide who will be mayor.
    Any other decision will is not only unacceptable but a call to arms against those councillors three years out who have disregard of those they are sworn to serve.
    Do the right thing despite the easy practicality of an in-house decision – many will be watching and the electorate’s memory can be longer and more powerful that one might think.
    Always support strong democratic rights of those for whom you are accountable.

    • I agree with Ross. Shuffling chairs for a mayoral position may be the convenient approach, but not a democratic one. It was not that many years ago that council terms were 3 years. With 3 years left in their term, we must have an election for mayor. It is an important position that must be chosen by the electorate and it must also be paper ballots at a proper voting place.
      Many people could not vote or had great difficulty with the online method or just said to hell with it.
      A proper vote for mayor is the only option as I see it. The cost really is irrelevant in the big picture as it is our dollars being used, and it seems that there is lots of it at times to go around!

  2. Rob Millman on

    Surprise! I disagree completely. Ms. Terziano is, and always has been, an outstanding representative (and Deputy Mayor) for the Town. She is imminently approachable; and her Council votes uniformly reflect both thoughtful consideration, and attention to Huntsville’s limited budget and credit rating. Also, she is already totally familiar with the position; obviating any wasteful learning curve.
    .
    Let any serious mayoral hopefuls contest Mr. Aitchison’s vacant seat. The successful individual can then run for Mayor in three years, against all comers (with three years of Council experience in her/his back pocket). We have the largest spending agenda in this, and coming, years that the Town has ever countenanced. Even $60,000 (a modest estimate; given the online problems with recent elections) is too much.

  3. There’s no other option, in my opinion, than to hold a by-election.

    Democracy isn’t free – or inexpensive, for that matter. We deserve the right to elect our mayor. Will all due respect to Councillor Terziano – let her run for the position if she wants it.

    The constituents must decide.

  4. I believe If you run for office you should finish the term you were elected for unless there are extenuating circumstances. If a politician has aspirations for running in another level of government that’s not an issue just finish what you started and do it with integrity. I question how effective Mayor Scott Aitchison will be for the town when he is focused on getting elected Federally this fall as an MP. If he was truly committed to doing the best thing for the town then resign now so a leader committed to the role of Mayor of Huntsville can be chosen to serve the community.

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