Fyfe-Millar's Ward 13 appointment fractures city council as Ward 6 decision still looms

With a year to go in their term -- this may be irreparable.

City council’s deep political divide was on full display Tuesday as they battled over how best to fill a pair of recently vacated ward seats.

In the end one new councillor was appointed, and the other seat will be filled next month.

Two weeks ago, the Corporate Services committee recommended appointing the 2018 second place finisher in Ward 13, John Fyfe Millar.

“It’s not just the work he’s done on the Downtown London BIA, the Blackfriars Community Association, the Committee of Adjustment, Chamber of Commerce. He is deeply invested in the ward,” Ward 2’s Shawn Lewis told his council colleagues.

But several councillors called for a process that would consider more than one candidate.

Councillor Maureen Cassidy argued using ranked ballot results to justify choosing the 2018 runner-up was a ‘red herring’ and would give Fyfe-Millar an unearned incumbent’s advantage in October’s election.

“By appointing this individual who I understand intends to run in 2022, we are endorsing as a council the candidacy of that person,” she argued.

Other opponents of the appointment were even more blunt.

“I am saying in the strongest possible terms that this is the wrong way for Mr. Fyfe Millar to come onto council. If he wants to be elected to council, he can run again in 2022,” said Councillor Jesse Helmer who wanted to take a couple weeks to gather more applications.

“It is wrong what we are doing here tonight,” summed up Councillor Anna Hopkins.

Mayor Ed Holder, however, argued that choosing Fyfe-Millar reflected past voter sentiment better than other options.

“In the absence of a by-election, the committee’s recommendation provides a process that I think best respects the principles of democracy and accountability,” he told council.

Deputy Mayor Josh Morgan adding, “It is my hope that when we have new colleagues on this council, we spend time to find where our common ground is across all members of council.”

Council voted 7 to 6 to appoint John Fyfe-Millar as the councillor representing Ward 13 that includes Downtown London, SOHO, Historic Woodfield, and Blackfriars.

Filling the vacant Ward 6 seat will wait until November.

Council voted 12 to 1 to launch an open call for applications.

The contentious debate spilled over to social media with Councillor Helmer tweeting, “Appointing your buddy who finished second without considering anyone else is not about ranked ballots. It’s about power.”

The mayor tells CTV News that Fyfe-Millar is no buddy.

“I think that (tweet) trivializes the caliber of the individual why suggesting it was some kind of buddy arrangement,” said Holder.

JOHN FYFE-MILLAR INCOMING COUNCILLOR

Fyfe-Millar says he is looking past the bitter debate, “The vote is done. Now our opportunity is to work together and how we move forward together.”

The incoming councillor believes seeking re-election next year makes him accountable to voters.

“My intention is to be here for the residents for the long term, and committing to being here for the long term. That means committing to 2022 cause that makes me accountable to them now and tomorrow.”