Mississauga could see more than one by-election in 2024 as councillors vie for the mayor’s job
On January 17 Mississauga Mayor Bonnie Crombie’s seat will be declared vacant, setting the stage for her successor to step in.
The months ahead will help define the future of Mississauga as councillors and other potential candidates vie for the mayor’s chair which has been occupied by Crombie for a decade.
The result of the November Ontario Liberal leadership vote, which gave Crombie the role, was the culmination of five months of campaigning, while questions around Mississauga’s future mounted.
After taking a leave from her mayoral duties during her campaigning, Crombie in a video statement on X confirmed her time as mayor would “be coming to an end.” Although there are no requirements under the Municipal Act for her to resign from her seat after becoming leader — she would only have to step down should she become a Member of Provincial Parliament — she confirmed she would be stepping down from her role as mayor in January “to take on the important work of reinvigorating the Liberal Party and addressing the problems facing people across the province.” Her last day in office will be Friday, January 12.
Since Crombie officially announced her bid in June, some Mississauga councillors have said that with nearly three years left in the council term, a by-election would be the most appropriate way to replace the city’s current leader. A City spokesperson previously explained that “if a vacancy occurs in the office of the head of council, Council has 60 days after the vacancy is declared to pass a bylaw requiring a by-election be held to fill the vacancy,” which would take roughly two to three months to organize.
“In Mississauga, a vacant mayoral seat must be filled through a by-election, as dictated by s. 284.12 of the Municipal Act, 2001. Although s. 263 provides for the appointment of mayors, it does not apply to municipalities such as the City of Mississauga that have been given “strong mayor powers,” a City spokesperson told The Pointer.
“The Mayor’s resignation is effective January 12, 2024, and Council must declare the seat vacant at the next Council meeting after receiving the resignation (January 17, 2024). Council then has 60 days to pass a by-law requiring a by-election for the vacant seat. Staff will prepare a report outlining the timing for a by-election.”
With the mayor’s chair now up for grabs, at least two current councillors have tossed their hat in the ring and Mississauga voters will soon have to decide who will lead their municipality through a critical time for the city.
The Pointer has received confirmation from at least two current members of council that they plan to run in the upcoming by-election to replace Mayor Crombie.
Councillor Stephen Dasko told The Pointer in December — just days after Crombie won the Liberal leadership — he plans to run once a by-election is declared. Dasko, now in his second term on council, told The Pointer he’s “looking forward to making an announcement in the future.”
He will not be alone.
Councillor Stephen Dasko is among the current councillors who will be seeking to replace Bonnie Crombie.
(The Pointer files)
High profile Mississauga politician Carolyn Parrish — a veteran of municipal and federal politics having previously served the city as an MP — who has been on council for more than a decade, confirmed to The Pointer she will also be running to replace Crombie in the upcoming by-election. She has said she intends to resign from her Ward 5 council seat upon registering her candidacy “so that both contests can take place on the same day, demonstrating full commitment and saving the City hundreds of thousands of dollars in the process.”
Unlike provincial and federal elections, the Municipal Act allows elected officials in a lower tier of government to retain their seat while they run for higher office.
The Mississauga City spokesperson confirmed to The Pointer councillors are not required to resign their seat to run in the Mayoral by-election. “If a Councillor resigns to run for the Mayoral position, Council can choose to either appoint somebody to fill the seat for the remainder of the term or choose to have a by-election.” Staff would then be required to prepare a report outlining the timing for a by-election that would be voted on by City Council.
Last year, the City of Toronto saw a historic mayoral by-election involving over 100 candidates and nearly 15,000 election workers to support the process, costing the City millions to hold the election.
According to the spokesperson, costs for previous City of Mississauga by-elections were $458,000 in 2011 when 27 candidates, Crombie among them, competed for the Ward 5 seat on council after Eve Adams made the move to federal politics, and $275,000 in 2015 when Councillor John Kovac beat out 25 candidates after Frank Dale was appointed as Peel Regional Chair.
“These by-elections were for one ward vs city-wide, so the costs are not comparable to what we will be undertaking this year for the mayoral by-election,” the City spokesperson explained. “The estimated cost of a mayoral by-election will be approximately $3.5 million and will be funded from election reserves.”
The spokesperson noted a ward by-election could cost up to $500,000.
“Each [councillor] will make his or her own decision as to whether he or she will choose to resign to run for mayor,” Councillor Parrish told The Pointer.
“I have made my decision to resign the Ward 5 seat upon registering for the mayoralty race as a matter of principle. If MPs and MPPs have to resign their seats to run for a municipal position — as Mitzi Hunter did to run for mayor of Toronto, I choose to do the same. No insurance policy or fall back position. Should I win, there will be a newly elected Councillor in place the same day, no prolonged second campaign and no further half million dollars to do so.”
Parrish added she has no comment on the decisions of other candidates as “these are personal decisions.”
In response to Councillor Parrish’s decision to resign from her Ward 5 position, when asked if he intends to follow suit Councillor Dasko told The Pointer, “I think each sitting member has been given a mandate to serve and we have the expectation, I think, to do so and so whether that’s as councillor or as mayor that’s the expectation that I believe we have and so that’s one that we’ll have to fulfill.”
Asked if he has any concerns about the City running separate by-elections, Dasko responded “ There are different opportunities but really the next step is up to council and that’s one that we entrust with council to make those decisions.”
Longtime Councillor Carolyn Parrish says she will be resigning from her Ward 5 council seat upon registering to run for the mayor’s job.
(The Pointer files)
When Crombie first announced her political plans to campaign for the Party’s leadership, Councillor Parrish told The Pointer Mississauga needs a “full time”, “committed” mayor to lead it through this significant time in the City’s history with major projects like the Hurontario LRT, which The Pointer recently reported is still awaiting funding to complete the cancelled downtown loop, as well as the multi-billion dollar expansion and redevelopment of the Mississauga Hospital, all while planning the impending growth anticipated to flood into Mississauga as part of the PC government’s ambitious housing targets. Taking all of these factors into consideration, Councillor Parrish previously asserted there should be a “fully democratic” by-election to allow residents to choose who will lead the city through this historic time.
“In this case, a by-election for the position of Councillor may be held at the same time as the Mayoral by-election dependant on the timing of the Councillor resignation,” the spokesperson explained.
“If the Councillor does not resign their seat to run in the Mayoral by-election and wins the Mayoral by-election, they would either resign their ward seat or it would be deemed vacant when they are sworn in as Mayor. At that time Council could either appoint a person to fill the ward seat for the remainder of the term or, within 60 days, pass a by-law requiring a by-election for the vacant seat. Staff would then prepare a report outlining the timing for a by-election.”
This means Mississauga residents could see a second by-election take place again in the fall, where the city would incur additional costs and resources.
Looking to put more “guard rails” around the acting mayor position, Councillor Joe Horneck proposed that councillors who choose to put their name on the ballot for mayor should not be able to serve as acting mayor, passing the position onto the next councillor in the cycle, “to make sure that we’re representing the city the best we can and that the councillors that are filling those positions are doing so without any distractions.”
“If somebody were to be in that position I think it would be appropriate for them to take a pass and we would just move on the agenda to the next person. I think that would be a good way to avoid any conflicts or troubles,” he told councillors at a December 13 council meeting.
“During the period between a seat becoming vacant and a new person being permanently sworn in as Head of Council/Mayor through a by-election, members of Council can serve as Acting Mayor/Head of Council on a rotating basis,” a City spokesperson previously explained, cautioning that “The rotation cannot continue indefinitely,” and it will be up to councillors to decide how they want to proceed.
Horneck also proposed that the councillor serving as acting mayor “shall not endorse a candidate for political office using that title,” adding that “in an acting mayor role you have to represent the city so I think it would be inappropriate to use the title in that capacity.”
“I wholeheartedly agree with it,” Parrish said. “I can’t imagine running for mayor of one of the largest cities in the province and still going to all the functions… it would be impossible, you wouldn’t be good at either one so I think it's good.”
The current rotation will see Councillor John Kovac serve as acting mayor until the end of January when Parrish will step into the role for February and March. However, if Horneck’s suggestion becomes concrete the position would be passed on once Parrish registers to run in the mayoral election and Horneck would assume the acting mayor role during that period.
Councillors referred the proposal to the next governance committee meeting which will take place January 29.
But the city’s future hangs in the balance as Mississauga voters will likely have to wait till June to find out who their next leader will be—a by-election cannot be planned until council declares Crombie’s seat vacant on January 17.
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