Original ballots overturned to block Van Holst from public housing board

Councillor Michael van Holst speaks at city hall in London, Ont. on Tuesday, April 2, 2019. (Daryl Newcombe / CTV London)

Deepening divisions on city council were exposed as politicians reversed an earlier choice to appoint Councillor Michael Van Holst to the new board of directors at London Middlesex Community Housing (LMCH).

In June, Van Holst and Councillor Phil Squire had been selected by council using a multiple-winner ballot to fill two vacancies on the LMCH board.

Some of their colleagues who preferred the third-place finisher, Councillor Arielle Kayabaga, felt strategic voting unfairly influenced the results.

“It’s not a very comfortable thing to do, but I think the way we’ve been doing things here is not working,” explained Councillor Jesse Helmer as he put forward a motion to refer the choices back to council’s Strategic Priorities and Policy Committee (SPPC).

Helmer argued that the decision by several councillors to choose only one nominee, rather than two, resulted in Van Holst finishing in second place.

The deputy clerk reminded council that the rules they approved to appoint members to boards and commissions do not require them to cast multiple votes.

Councillors are permitted to make a single choice.

Helmer’s referral lost on a tie vote 7-7 (Van Holst was absent from the meeting), so he requested that the appointments be confirmed through separate votes.

Squire was confirmed 12-2, but Van Holst’s appointment lost 6-8.

Though he did not support Van Holst’s appointment, Deputy Mayor Josh Morgan expressed disappointment that the approved process was circumvented.

“It’s better to have a procedure we can all agree upon and follow, which I thought we had, than to do one-off (votes), which you saw tonight produces a very odd result.”

“I’m not sure council is clear itself how it wants to conduct votes,” added Squire after the meeting. “That’s not good for us, and not good for the community, when we conduct things in that manner.”

Filling the remaining council seat on the LMCH board will be considered again at the July 28 meeting of SPPC.