Toronto City Council has gone against the wishes of Mayor Rob Ford, voting 22 to 11 to appoint a replacement to fill the Etobicoke seat left vacant by Doug Holyday's move to provincial politics.
The vote, at a special meeting of city council Monday morning, means candidates for the appointment will now be considered by the Etobicoke community council at a special meeting on October 3, with a final decision by city council on October 10.
Mr. Ford, who put forward the motion to hold a by-election, told councillors he was only representing the views of Ward 3, which has been without a councillor since Mr. Holyday won a by-election race August 1 to represent Etobicoke-Lakeshore at Queen's Park. "Their views just happen to be my views," Mr. Ford told council.
"That's what Ward 3 residents want and that's what they deserve," Mr. Ford said earlier, arguing that a by-election is the only way to let Ward 3 residents have a say in important issues in the run-up to the fall 2014 election, such as the upcoming budget debates.
Mr. Ford's arguments failed to sway the majority of councillors, many of whom argued that the estimated $225,000 cost of a by-election was not justified, given that the campaign period for the next regular municipal election begins in January.
Speaking to reporters after the vote, the mayor said the decision to fill the vacancy through appointment is an attempt by the left on council to keep him off the campaign trail.
"It's political. They don't want me campaigning," he said, speculating that if he had promised to stay neutral during the by-election campaign, the left on council would have supported going to the polls.
Other councillors were quick to point out that the vote did not go along strict left-right lines, with councillors Gord Perks and Mike Layton, voting for a by-election.
Councillor Glenn De Baeremaeker cited previous vacancies which were filled by appointment and said there was never any outcry from citizens for those decisions.
"It is a good day for democracy. We've done today what we've done for the last decade on council," he said.
City policy recommends a by-election be held if a seat is declared vacant before November 30 in the year prior to an election year, as was the case with Ward 3. The appointments made in the past decade were all for vacancies declared after November 30, but Mr. De Baeremaeker said the policy was outdated as councillors now serve four year terms instead of three.
"Obviously the majority of councillors were comfortable."
Others, like Councillor Doug Ford, were disappointed by council's decision. He said he was worried Ward 3 residents won't get the proper representation and councillors had a hidden agenda to appoint a left-wing candidate who will not support the mayor's agenda.
"Even if a fiscal conservative gets voted in [by council] that doesn't mean it might be the right fiscal conservative and who are they accountable to?" he said.
"This is terrible for Toronto, terrible for democracy. Once again, council rules in favour against the taxpayers of this city."