Province won’t pick up TDSB byelection tab

The Ontario government will not foot the bill for a byelection to elect new Toronto District School Board trustees, as two seats on the board are empty following the election of Michael Coteau and Soo Wong to Queen’s Park on Oct. 6.

“The ministry will not pay the byelection costs to fill two vacancies at the TDSB because the board has a choice of filling the vacancies by appointing a person rather than holding a byelection,” Gary Wheeler, a spokesperson for the Ministry of Education said.

According to the 1996 Municipal Elections Act, the Ontario government will fund school board election expenses when:

  • It is time for regular election after a 4-year term
  • Election recount is needed
  • A byelection is needed and there is no other option to fill a position
  • Compliance audits are undertaken for a school board election

“Byelection costs will be reimbursed by the government only when a school board is legally obligated to run a byelection or has to pay for election recounts and compliance audits.”

It will cost the TDSB $350,000 to hold a byelection.

Although the school board has a choice to either hold a byelection or appoint another trustee, the right thing to do is to choose the democratic process, Jerry Chadwick, trustee for Scarborough-Southwest said.

“It’s too early in the term to appoint somebody,” he said. “It takes away from the voters’ right of selection.”

Shaun Chen, trustee for Scarborough-Rouge River, agrees with Chadwick.

“Because we are barely one year into our four-year term, if we were to appoint replacement trustees, they would sit for approximately three years,” he said.

“It is perhaps more democratic if we hold a byelection so that members of the public can then determine who they would like their trustees to be.”

Deciding whether to hold a byelection or appoint a trustee will probably turn into “a long debate,” Chadwick said.

“Everybody is budget conscious, and we have to be,” he said. “No one is easily going to vote for $350,000.”

If the board decides to appoint a trustee, it could appoint the candidates who came second to Coteau and Wong in the last TDSB election.

Sam Sotiropoulos, who finished second to Wong by about 500 votes last year, did not want to say whether or not he will take the position if it were offered to him.

“To be honest, I have yet to discuss the matter with my wife and family and I would prefer not to speculate on hypothetical situations at this point,” he said.

“Let’s wait and see what the board decides.”

The school board will meet on Nov. 16 to discuss the matter. Chen said the board is likely to decide to hold a byelection.

“I think the board, based on my conversations with my colleagues, will decide to hold a by-election simply because it is more democratic and allows people to have a say,” he said.

Wong, who represented Scarborough-Agincourt as a trustee, was criticized for “wearing two hats” during her campaign to become an MPP. But her former colleague disagrees.

“It’s totally appropriate for [Wong and Coteau] to go for it,” Chadwick said.

“We’ve lost two very strong trustees who have been great representatives, but they are still serving their communities.”