McDonald named as new C-K councillor


Fills vacated East Kent seat

By Pam Wright
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

After much debate, Chatham-Kent council voted to appoint Morena McDonald to fill the empty councillor’s seat in East Kent.

McDonald, who placed third in the last election in Ward 3 behind Steve Pinsonneault and John Wright, will likely assume the post at the May 27 council meeting.

Thamesville’s Pinsonneault, who represented East Kent for 17 years, was recently elected as MPP for Lambton-Kent-Middlesex in a May 2 by-election.

A handful of deputations – including one from agriculturalist Bill Parks – lobbied hard at the council meeting May 13 in favour of holding a by-election to replace Pinsonneault. Other members of the Kent Federation of Agriculture stepped up to the podium pressing for a by-election.

Several councillors – including East Kent’s Wright – also pushed for a by-election, saying it was necessary to uphold democracy.

Wright stated the issue was becoming a “popularity contest.

“If we wanted someone to come in on popularity, we should have East Kent voters decide that,” he said, adding he has nothing against McDonald as he does not know her personally. But Wright said if she did get appointed “the people will be hard on her.”

South Kent’s Ryan Doyle and North Kent’s Rhonda Jubenville both advocated for holding a by-election to in order to uphold democracy.

“I’m here to speak up for democracy,” Jubenville stated, adding council should take every opportunity to do so, “at any cost.”

The councillor said she was “perplexed” that administration became involved in the political process. The motions came forward following a report from the municipal clerk’s office.

“In my opinion, this was very biased and should be the sole decision of council in how we proceed with filling the empty council seat,” Jubenville said.

In the end Wright’s motion to hold a by-election failed in a 10-5 vote, clearing the way for a motion to appoint McDonald to the chair, which passed 11-4.

McDonald, a former radio reporter known for her role in founding and promoting the popular Dresden Night markets, captured 1,161 votes in the 2022 municipal election, bested by Wright with 1,727 votes, and Pinsonneault with 2,049 ballots.

Council also heard from municipal clerk Judy Smith who explained that appointing next-in-line candidates from an election is a common practice in Ontario.

According to an administrative report, holding a by-election would cost an estimated $75,000, something some councillors didn’t find palatable.

Wallaceburg Coun. Carmen McGregor said she’s heard from constituents that “a lot of people don’t want to spend the extra money to do a by-election when there is a very viable strong candidate,” that can be appointed.

North Kent Coun. Jamie McGrail, who represents Chatham-Kent on Southwestern Integrated Fibre Technology (SWIFT), said she’s heard from her contacts around the province that appointing someone to fill a vacant council seat is what the majority of municipalities do.

Chatham Coun. Brock McGregor said the most democratic way to approach the vacancy “is to respect” the results of the 2022 election.

“All of us around this table ran in that 2022 election. If we appoint the third-place finisher that also ran in the 2022 election, it was a free and fair vote,” McGregor said.

Mayor Darrin Canniff said that he had spoken with McDonald prior to the council meeting to make sure she was still interested in taking on the post.


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