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Civic activist, lawyer to fill council seats until elections

Ceta Ramkhalawansingh was chosen to fill the empty seat in Ward 20 riding of Trinity-Spadina after a second ballot was needed on July 7 2014. The seat opened up after Adam Vaughan left to run for the federal Liberal party.

Fred Lum/The Globe and Mail

Toronto city council has appointed a retired civil servant and activist and an Etobicoke lawyer to fill seats vacated in recent provincial and federal elections.

Ceta Ramkhalawansingh, a former diversity manager for the City of Toronto, was appointed councillor for Ward 20 (vacated by Adam Vaughan after he won the federal Trinity-Spadina by-election) during a special council meeting on Monday, while lawyer James Maloney will represent Ward 5 (which Peter Milczyn left to take the provincial Etobicoke-Lakeshore seat). The appointments are meant as a stop-gap measure for the next four months until October's municipal elections.

Both appointees won after just two rounds of ballots, in votes that roughly split council between left and right. Ms. Ramkhalawansingh beat former Peel Police chief Robert Lunney 22 to 18, while Mr. Maloney edged out former councillor Agnes Potts in a 24 to 15 vote.

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The application for Ms. Ramkhalawansingh, a well-known activist, included endorsements from former mayors David Crombie, Art Eggleton and John Sewell, due in part to her extensive community work – including with the Toronto Community Foundation and Word on the Street Canada.

Ms. Ramkhalawansingh, who continues to receive her city pension but plans on "significantly increasing" her charitable contributions now that she will also receive a council salary, said she will continue the work done by Mr. Vaughan. This includes championing residents' concerns about the proposed Toronto Island airport expansion and the Mirvish-Gehry development on King Street West.

"There are many things I don't like about it, but I think it's a significant and fantastic improvement over what was there before," she said of a recent compromise to reduce the Mirvish development from three towers to two.

"I would support the compromise, as well as certainly be asking questions about green space," she said, adding that she will look into the possibility of additional development charges to help with that.

Mr. Maloney said he plans to "slow down" from his full-time duties at his law firm to represent the Etobicoke ward, but continue to do both jobs, which he could not do as a full-term councillor.

"This being a four-month window to fill a seat, I jumped on it because it's something I'm very excited about doing," he said. "I live in the riding. I know the people. I know the issues so it's something I can step into."

Mr. Maloney identified himself as a registered Liberal, and has worked on many political campaigns in the past, including for fellow councillor Mark Grimes' 2010 Ward 6 campaign.

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Both Ms. Ramkhalawansingh and Mr. Maloney said they have no plans to run in the October municipal election.

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