Appoint former councillor to fill vacant seat, Kanata North groups urge

·3 min read
Former councillor Marianne Wilkinson is a strong candidate to fill the Kanata North council seat left vacant after Jenna Sudds announced her resignation this week, a number of local groups say. (Kimberley Molina/CBC - image credit)
Former councillor Marianne Wilkinson is a strong candidate to fill the Kanata North council seat left vacant after Jenna Sudds announced her resignation this week, a number of local groups say. (Kimberley Molina/CBC - image credit)

Community and business groups in Kanata North are calling for the city to appoint their former long-time councillor — rather than hold a byelection — to fill the seat left empty after this week's federal election.

Jenna Sudds resigned from council Thursday after winning the riding of Kanata–Carleton Monday night for the Liberals.

With just 14 months left in the current term, city council must decide whether to hold a byelection. For some in Kanata North, there simply isn't enough time for that.

"It's time for representation," said Barbara Ramsay, chair of the Kanata Greenspace Protection Coalition. "A byelection would just not meet that timeline."

Ramsay's coalition is among the signatories of a letter to the mayor and city clerk that calls for Sudds's successor to be appointed, and suggests Marianne Wilkinson — who served as Kanata North's councillor for decades before retiring in 2018 and was the first mayor of Kanata — as the best candidate for the interim job.

According to the letter, Wilkinson's "long-term hands-on experience" and her knowledge of the ward's issues, as well as "the deep respect with which she is held by our community," make her a suitable candidate.

Ramsay said it's a critical time for Kanata North, with the release of the city's official plan, initiatives around a new tech park this fall, and the ongoing court drama over the redevelopment of the Kanata Lakes Golf and Country Club.

"This is about a single opportunity where an incredibly knowledgeable, long-serving city councillor and former mayor ... has offered to serve for a shortened period of time," she said.

WATCH | Community groups ask council to shun byelection and appoint new Kanata North councillor

Wilkinson willing

In an interview Friday with CBC News, Wilkinson said she'd be willing to accept the position. The 83-year-old said she has no intention of running for council when the term is up.

"I would be a fill-in, but I would be a fill-in that actually does the job," Wilkinson said. "Because I know the job. I've done it many times."

Coun. Mathieu Fleury tweeted his support of the former city councillor acting as a bridge until the next municipal election.

Besides Ramsay, the letter is signed by Steve Nichols of the Briarbrook Brookside Morgan's Grant Community Association, John Hardie of the Catherwood Community Association, Richard Thibodeau of the Country Club Estates Community Association, Neil Thomson of the Kanata Beaverbrook Community Association, Lauri Moussa from the Kanata Central BIA and Corina Marinescu from Kanata Lakes Community Association.

'Can't put a price on democracy'

Not everyone is in agreement, however.

Former city councillor Bob Monette said he has the utmost respect for Wilkinson but still believes a byelection is the best path forward.

Monette was elected to council in a 2006 byelection, serving only nine months left in that term.

"My personal view, I have always kept this view throughout my career, is that you can't put a price on democracy," he said Friday.

Mayor Jim Watson's office said he'd wait to see the city clerk's recommendation on the options to fill the vacancy before taking a position, with the debate taking place at council's Oct. 13 meeting.

Sudds told CBC Radio's Ottawa Morning on Friday that she agrees it's important to get someone in the role quickly.

"I think that at this point in time, putting a call out for those that are interested in a potential appointment is something we should explore," she said.

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