Trustees Jennifer Story, Michael Ford, Neethan Shan, Sheila Cary-Meagher and Alexander Brown stand in favour of a by-election at the March 22 board meeting.

East York trustees: Democracy trumps dollars

School board delegates back byelection, despite cost

At a public school board meeting last week, two of East York’s trustees came out strongly for the proposition that even when democracy is expensive, it’s worth the cost.

At the board’s regular meeting on March 22, Sheila Cary-Meagher, who represents Ward 16/Beaches-East York, and Jennifer Story, who represents Ward 15/Toronto-Danforth, defended a six-figure byelection proposed for Ward 14/Toronto Centre-Rosedale.

The Ward 14 trustee, Sheila Ward, died in February. An election to replace her is tentatively scheduled for June 20.

Byelections are notorious for low voter turnout. And the board expects costs for the “scaled-down” election will be in the $350,000-$400,000 range. The most recent byelection held by the TDSB was this past January, when Neethan Shan replaced elected Shaun Chen in Ward 21/Scarborough-Rouge. Chen had been elected to Parliament in the fall federal election. That vote cost $250,000.

“It is a waste of much-needed funds,” said Chris Tonks, the trustee for Ward 6/York South-Weston. “We can just take that money and use it on our students’ education.”

Tonks argued for the board to appoint a new trustee in order to avoid the cost of an election. Student trustee Hamima Fattah also spoke against a vote. But they were met with strong opposition.

“It doesn’t really matter if only four people turn out. People make a choice,” said Cary-Meagher. “We can choose our leaders. If you choose not to vote for one, you get what you deserve.”

Story stated that the process of selecting representatives must remain democratic, no matter the cost.

“This is a position that is put in place by the electorate,” Story said. “We owe it to the people.”