Morena McDonald

There will soon be a new face in Chatham-Kent council chambers.

Following a lengthy discussion at the Civic Centre Monday night, council members voted in favour of appointing a replacement for former councillor Steve Pinsonneault, who recently left municipal politics to be the MPP of Lambton-Kent-Middlesex.

Council members were faced with two options: appointing the third place candidate in East Kent from the 2022 municipal election, namely Moréna McDonald, or holding a by-election at a cost of $75,000, which would have been taken out of Chatham-Kent’s election reserves.

While some councillors deemed an appointment as undemocratic, Municipal Clerk Judy Smith cited a number of similar situations in other Ontario communities, and says the precedent has already been set.

Smith pointed to Kitchener, where a municipal councillor recently became the area’s MPP, and the runner up from the last municipal election was appointed to the vacant council seat.

“In Sudbury, unfortunately they had two councillors that passed away within weeks of each other… they both appointed the next person as the runner up from the last election also.”

Ward 6 councillor Brock McGregor, who also ran for a provincial seat in the 2022 Ontario general election, albeit unsuccessfully, said appointing the runner-up from the 2022 municipal vote was the most democratic choice.

“All of us around this table ran in that 2022 election and if we appoint the third place finisher (in East Kent,) they also ran in that 2022 election, which was a free and fair vote,” McGregor said.

A motion from Ward 3 councillor John Wright to have a by-election declared was voted down 5-10. However, a motion to accept the initial recommendation from administration to appoint McDonald passed 11-4.

Moréna McDonald has confirmed to CKXS News she will be accepting the appointment.

“With this term nearly two years in, there’s a lot to learn and catch up on,” McDonald said in a written statement. “But as a long-time resident of Ward 3, I have always wanted to see our towns have a strong small business community and opportunities for young people and newcomers to get involved.”

It is expected a swearing in ceremony will be held before or during council’s next meeting on May 27th.