By Joel Wittnebel/The Oshawa Express
Oshawa regional councillor Bob Chapman has resigned.
Chapman, who has been a councillor for the City of Oshawa and Region of Durham since 2010, is stepping away in order to focus on his candidacy for the Progressive Conservatives in the upcoming June election.
Chapman announced his candidacy for the PCs in March 2017.
“It was a hard decision because I enjoy being on council and I think I’ve done a good job these last almost eight years,” Chapman says. “I think the time was right.”
Moving forward, Chapman said it would be unfair to the taxpayers of Oshawa and Durham for him to continue in his role as he pursues higher political office.
And while Chapman originally planned to take a leave of absence from his role on council, he says he was unable to do so without being paid by the city.
“That was my intent, to not get paid or collect benefits. I find out I couldn’t do that,” he says, a fact that was later confirmed by The Oshawa Express with city clerk Andrew Brouwer.
With that said, Chapman notes that his resignation is a clear sign that he’s committed to the June election.
“Part of the reason for resigning as well is to show that I’m committed to June 7 and committing to being the MPP, because if I just took a leave of abesence and I don’t get elected, I’m back to work on June 8 as a councillor. This way, my focus is on June 7, if I don’t get elected that’s a completely different issue and we’ll see what happens,” he says.
And while the election timelines would allow for Chapman to put his name forward for the municipal race if he’s unsuccessful in his attempts for a position at Queen’s Park, he says he has no plans to do so.
“I think I’ve done my service as a councillor. I think this moving on to another level is what I want to try to do. I think there’s a lot of other people out there that are good that can take up the next council.”
Moving forward, Oshawa council will now need to decide how to fill the vacancy left behind by Chapman’s departure. According to the city’s vacancy policy, council will need to appoint someone to the role, as the policy dictates that after March 31 of an election year, a by-election can not be held.
A report will be coming to council on April 30 with recommendations on how to proceed.
For council, their options include opening a call for submissions for interested candidates, appointing a member of city council to Chapman’s regional position, and then choosing from the list of candidates to fill the position, similar to what was done following the passing of Nancy Diamond.
Regardless of the chosen option, the timing of Chapman’s departure has Councillor Amy McQuaid-England concerned.
“I think the broader issue here is that the timing sucks for residents and it’s awkward for whoever comes into that position because, one, depending on what the public says they may need to commit to not running again, which means they are, in all intents and purposes, a seat filler, or, they’re given an advantage in the election which is unfair to anyone else that wants to run for office,” she says.
For that reason, she says the Municipal Act needs to be changed to require councillors interested in pursuing upper levels of government to resign once they as they announce their nomination.
“At the end of the day, the issue we have right now, whoever takes that seat, doesn’t have an opportunity to actually represent anyone.”
However, Mayor John Henry disagrees.
“We meet during the summer time. It’s not entirely doing nothing, because the business of this community is ongoing and is simply amazing in where we’re getting to and what we’ve been able to do, so the potential of meeting over the summer still exists,” he says. “The business still needs to continue and that’s what’s key, that we go out each and every day and do what we can to advance this community.”
On April 30, council will need to choose the option they will use to fill Chapman’s seat, which will be followed by a public meeting at a later date.