Sunday, September 16, 2007

Should Councillor David Shiner stand aside?

David Shiner, a Toronto city councillor and former budget chief, is the Conservative candidate for the Provincial seat in Willowdale, a closely contested match-up with incumbent Liberal David Zimmer. Some members of council and the Mayor's man-in-the-hallway and deputy communications director Stuart Green have called for Shiner to either resign or take unpaid leave on the grounds that while campaigning he is not representing his constituents and that Olivia Chow and Sylvia Watson did likewise when they ran.

Now if Shiner stood aside unpaid, his constituents aren't represented for the term of the campaign, and if he resigns neither a by-election or an infill process would be completed by election day so once again, his constituents go unrepresented. So basically Willowdale has inferior representation whichever way you slice it, and he does seem to be still dealing with some city business (any that gets him media coverage anyway).

Then there's the issue of drawing salary - except the Mayor and other councillors are not on solid ground to criticise here. It is my understanding that elected councillors are paid up to election day, whereas city staff have to take unpaid leave to challenge them, like Shaun Bruce, a student and part-time City Zamboni driver who challenged Hizzoner last year.

A more equitable situation would be if council incumbents wages were terminated on the day the election began, or if city staff were allowed to campaign while on paid leave or on their own time. Once the equity of City Council elections was decided, perhaps then they could worry about councillors seeking new jobs. If City Council wants to legislate councillors into unpaid leave they should do so, and not just whine to the press about "tradition" and depend on media pressure to produce a result.
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