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Debate over by-election for Holyday’s vacant seat continues

Toronto City Mayor Rob Ford presents the key to the city to his former deputy mayor and newly elected MPP Doug Holyday at a ceremony at Toronto city hall on Tuesday August 20, 2013.

Chris Young/The Globe and Mail

Toronto Mayor Rob Ford would prefer that council supports a by-election to fill an empty council seat, but it will be a tough challenge to get the votes Monday he needs to swing it his way.

The vacancy in Ward 3, which covers parts of Etobicoke, was created earlier this month when Doug Holyday was elected to Queen's Park as a Tory MPP. Appointing someone to fill the seat is the other option council will consider.

Mr. Ford devoted significant portions of his two-hour radio Sunday to make his case for a by-election.

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He has persuaded about a dozen councillors, but acknowledged it will take as many as 18 or 19 to seal the deal. Some councillors are favouring an appointment, given the estimated cost of a by-election is $225,000, and all Toronto residents will be going to the polls a year later anyway.

About 35 of the city's 43 councillors are expected to cut short their summer vacation to attend the special council meeting, called at the mayor's request, officials in the mayor's office said.

Some councillors who support the mayor's position, such as Mark Grimes and Gloria Lindsay Luby, will be out of town for the vote.

Frances Nunziata, usually a strong supporter of Mr. Ford, is expected to declare a conflict of interest. Her brother, John Nunziata, a former MP and candidate for mayor, has indicated his interest in the Etobicoke seat in the case of an appointment.

Others are holding their cards close to their chest. Councillor Denzil Minnan-Wong, a member of the mayor's executive, isn't saying which option he will support.

Councillor Josh Colle, who has often been a critical swing vote on council, said he plans to support appointing a replacement, saying he can't justify the price of an election so close to the regular municipal vote.

Doug Ford, the mayor's brother and a councillor who represents a neighbouring Etobicoke ward, has warned an appointment would put a "lefty" in Mr. Holyday's seat.

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But at least one councillor who favours appointment – Shelley Carroll – said she would support a replacement with the same voting preferences as Mr. Holyday, the former deputy mayor and a strong supporter of the mayor's agenda.

In making his pitch on the radio show, Mr. Ford recalled a gathering of 150 ward residents last week in which over 80 per cent in attendance voiced their preference for preferred a by-election.

"If council decides to go with an appointment, it's the wrong thing to do," Mr. Ford said. "Let the people in Ward 3 decide. Let's open it up and listen to the people … they want a by-election."

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