With only a handful of meetings ahead before the October election, city councillors decided Tuesday morning to fill the vacancy in Ward 1 with someone with experience.
So after hearing pitches from 13 people hoping to replace Joe Cimino, councillors took just two votes to settle on Gerry McIntaggart, a former city councillor from the 1990s, who stepped down after amalgamation to run – unsuccessfully – a few times for the New Democrats.
In his presentation, McIntaggart talked about the city's decision to ban smoking in bars when he was on council. It was an idea that sparked outrage at first, including many angry, late-night calls.
“Especially after the bars closed,” McIntaggart quipped.
Despite the initial reaction, the ban is accepted and supported by the public today, he said. When he saw how the current council is being attacked for unpopular decisions, he decided to put his name forward. Like the smoking ban, he said politicians are elected to make wise choices that aren't always popular.
“This is an excellent council,” McIntaggart said moments after his win. “They were when they were elected and they still are.”
His experience means he can step in and be effective right away – plus he has no plans to run for re-election.
“I can offer smooth and seamless transition when it's critical to get up to speed as quickly as possible,” McIntaggart said.
In his speech to council, he avoided campaign-style speeches that tripped up a few other hopefuls. One began attacking former employers, another guaranteed he could save the city $1 million, while another had a detailed plan on how to improve the city's roads system. Each were admonished, and were told to focus on their qualifications for the job.
That left some struggling to find something to say.
“You're hindering my process,” said businessman Gerald Perras. “I'm disappointed with what you've done.”
McIntaggart sat on the first council following amalgamation, as well as on the former city and regional councils. He joins Ward 8 Coun. Al Sizer, who was named last month to replace Fabio Belli, who died suddenly in April. That means for meetings in August and September, there will be a full council in place.
However, this edition of council could be hamstrung after the Sept. 12 filing deadline for candidates running in the Oct. 27 municipal election. Under provincial rules, council can't make major decisions after that date if there's no chance at least half of those councillors will be back after the election.
With Mayor Marianne Matichuk not running again, along with the two replacement councillors and two or three incumbents who are expected to retire, it could be labelled a “lame duck council” after September.