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Oshawa deserves a byelection

When it comes to improving our city, council has used our tax dollars for a number of things.

Whether it’s for road repairs, facility upgrades or park improvements, our dollars are often put to good use. Now however, council is using those dollars as a hiding place.

Watchful residents will have learned by now that the cost of running a byelection to fill the late Nancy Diamond’s seat on regional council will be in the neighbourhood of $150,000 to $170,000, and that amount has several councillors running scared. It’s due to this apparently high cost that several councillors are calling for an appointment to fill the seat.

However, the colours just don’t run.

Over the previous year, council has had no issues with approving unbudgeted or unexpected items without batting an eye. The highest of those costs came in at over $8.4 million, going toward an LED streetlight project that saw the city take on additional debt when its debt limit was already bursting at the seams. In the same token, council had no issues with ignoring its own set debt policy during the most recent budget, approving an additional $4 million to pay for the airport runway, a project that ballooned to approximately $6 million, double the $3 million in the original estimate in 2015.

Taking a closer look, citizens should be able to see some councillors’ stance of wanting to save money as a hypocritical one, seeing as the above multi-million dollar projects were overwhelmingly approved, but that $170,000 is suddenly a lot to ask for.

Regardless, if councillors are to fill their role of being transparent and accountable members of municipal government, the most democratic route is to allow the residents of Oshawa to choose Diamond’s replacement. By the numbers, she was the voter’s choice in the last election, receiving 15,620 votes, the most of anyone running for a regional seat.

It’s also worth noting that the soon-to-be regional councillor would be representing the whole city, not just an isolated ward, seeing as councillors are still bound by the soon-to-be erased at large system.

The options, which also include bumping a city councillor into a regional role and then filling the latter vacancy, will be before council on March 20 when they officially declare Diamond’s seat vacant. While they are not obligated to make a decision at that time, it will come in the near future – one can only hope it’s the right one.