Mitch Panciuk – Former Mayor of City of Belleville, ON

Published , updated January 6, 2024

Mitch Panciuk was the 76th Mayor of the City of Belleville. He was elected Mayor on October 22, 2018 after serving one-term as a Belleville Ward City Councillor (2014-2018).

He ran for reelection as the incumbent candidate for mayor in the City of Belleville in the 2022 municipal election and lost to Neil Ellis.

Early life

Raised in Edmonton, Alberta he holds a Bachelor of Arts in Canadian Studies from the University of Alberta.

Career & business interests

He and his family moved to Belleville in 2001 to construct and operate the Boston Pizza Restaurant and Sports Bar on Bell Boulevard at the Quinte Mall.

Positions held

  • Member of the Belleville Police Services Board
  • Past-President of the Belleville Chamber of Commerce
  • Past-Chairman and six-year Board Member of the Quinte Economic Development Commission
  • Former Vice-President and Honorary Life Director of the Belleville Agricultural Society
  • Past-President of the Bay of Quinte Basketball Official’s Association
  • Served as an elected member of the National Franchisee Advisory Council for Boston Pizza International

Voting history on council

DescriptionVoteResultDateSource
Terminating the contract with the law firm of Integrity Commissioner Integrity Commissioner Tony Fleming and firm Cunningham and SwanYeaAgreed To2020-08-10Link
Appointment of Tyler Allsopp to fill the vacant seat of late Councillor Pat Culhane.NayNegatived2020-12-14Link
Hear a report from the ad-hoc committee tasked with recommending Jennifer MacTavish to fill the vacant councillor positionYeaNegatived2021-01-20Link
Appointment of Tyler Allsopp to fill the vacant seat of late Councillor Pat Culhane.YeaAgreed To2021-01-25Link
Replace the current two ward system with four wardsYeaNegatived2021-09-13Link
Deferred items be added back to the 2022 Capital Budget: one (1) sidewalk plow at $185,000.00 and one (1) zeroturn lawnmower at $19,000.00 to be funded through Development Charges Funding ($124,000.00) and Taxation ($80,000.00) NayNegatived2021-12-06Link
Farnham Road – Maitland Drive to (South of Wims Way) – Reconstruction – Phase 1 in the budgeted amount of $10, 600,000.00 be added to the 2022 Capital Budget.YeaAgreed To2021-12-06Link
Zoning bylaw amendment application by Juan Hernandez of 57 Octavia St. asking to continue his 24/7 community pit stop with eight vending machines.YeaNegatived2021-12-13Link

2018 election priorities

  • Dealing with a housing crisis. It’s my number one priority in my platform. Not only ensuring there are homes to purchase, but also working to ensure rental, affordable and social housing are available.
  • Making Belleville the safest city in Ontario.
  • Increasing our green and recreational space including a 25 kilometre cycling pathway for people to walk, inline skate, ride their bicycles all around the city and go into Thurlow, the part of the belt north of the 401 that is often overlooked.
  • Significant investments in infrastructure have been made over the past 12 years and it’s time to take advantage of that growth and put money towards other resources.

Results

“We’ve made record investments in infrastructure, in social agencies, and in various recreation facilities and programs. We’ve done this while presenting residents with the lowest annual tax increases in the region and in one year we actually had a negative tax increase.”

2022 election priorities

Panciuk’s website identifies 4 key platform areas:

  • “Growth pays for growth: keeping tax increases low”: emphasizes his desire to draw “investment and employers” to Belleville to help fund infrastructure, indicating that he has successfully utilized this strategy in the past 4 years as incumbent 
  • “Keep building new housing”: highlights existing Community Improvement Plan, alleges “We’re the first Council in over 20 years to donate land for affordable housing” and states that he will continue to do so 
  • “Build more great spaces to live, work & play”: reviews parks development project that have begun under his tenure 
  • “Leave no one behind”: shares a plan to host a “Social Services Summit” to focus on supporting “vulnerable communities”; specifically referencing homelessness and mental health needs

He has announced plans to bring a new $35 to $40 million performing arts centre to the city. The plan remains in the preliminary stages and awaits approval on a feasibility study.

Panciuk’s re-election campaign has garnered support from local groups including the Belleville Professional Firefighters Association and Quinte Labour Council.

Regarding guiding by-law officers to support businesses

He said they needed to step up by-law enforcement. In residential neighbourhoods they have gone from a house supporting a single family of five, to upwards of 10 unrelated people living in the same building, and says that is a problem that needs to be dealt with.  Part of the problem resides in provincial law, but also that the city needs better by-law enforcement as well.

Regarding rising crime rates in the city.

Panciuk said that while crime was on the rise, the city was still doing great compared to crime elsewhere and that Belleville remains a very safe place. The incumbent mayor went on to say that he did support hiring more officers and expanding frontline resources for police.

Integrity commissioner investigation and firing controversy

After a months-long investigation into a complaint about the conduct of Mayor Mitch Panciuk, (late) Councillor Pat Culhane and Councillor or Kelly McCaw submitted on June 2019, the Integrity Commissioner’s report found that Panciuk had breached the code of conduct in two cases:

  1. Contravening Section 8 the Code of Conduct by using the influence of his office to direct staff, interfere in the hiring process and to exert pressure on a senior staff member to hire a specific individual which mayoral candidate Neil Ellis claims was Panciuk’s election campaign manager, still working for City Hall.
  2. Contravening section 11 of the code of conduct by engaging in a course of conduct that should have been known to be unwelcome by exerting pressure on the senior staff member to hire the specific individual. The statement that it would be the senior staff member’s “funeral” with respect to his hiring choice, in combination with other statements and the Mayor’s influence throughout the process amounted to harassment.

The report states that Panciuk tried to sway the hiring process for one employee and that he directed staff to include two candidates on a shortlist to be interviewed, even though they were unqualified for the position.

The report recommended the following penalties:

  1. Publish a public reprimand expressing council’s condemnation of Panciuk’s alleged interference in the city’s hiring process and his reported attempts to influence staff to make hiring decisions. 
  2. Impose a 30-day suspension of Panciuk’s pay.

In October 2019, Council voted to accept the integrity commissioner’s findings that ruled in favour of the mayor and councillors, but did note vote on or mention the rulings that found Panciuk had breached the code of conduct or the two recommendations the commissioner offered in relation to the mayor.

In response, Panciuk stated: “I recognize that I should not have put myself in that situation and made the city and council vulnerable, and I apologize for that,” who added that he thought “the potential penalties that [the integrity commissioner] was suggesting were overdone for a first occurrence.”

In August 2020, after Belleville council received the Integrity Commissioner Tony Fleming’s annual report on services provided, council voted to fire him and cancel the contract with his firm, Cunningham Swan. 

  • The commissioner had also looked into potential violations involving three councillors, but those were determined to be unfounded.
  • Coun. Sandison proposed the amendment to dismiss.
  • Coun. Williams objected to the amendment, saying there were three active investigations being handled.
  • Coun. Thompson
  • Coun. Malette argued against the amendment, saying he felt like some councillors wanted to hire an integrity commissioner that suited their needs. was ejected from the meeting for taking exception to Panciuk’s repeated use of the term “hotel gate”, referencing investigations that Coun. Williams had been cleared in.
  • Panciuk alleged the commissioner did sloppy work, pointing to an alleged error in one of Fleming’s reports, where he called Belleville a township rather than a city, as evidence that Fleming “copies and pastes” from documents he uses in other municipalities and neglects to proofread his work. He also said he was interfering the democratic process when he directed councillors not to discuss his findings with each other.
  • Councillors Carr, Williams and Thompson voted against the firing. Coun. Malette did not vote due to being absent.

Vacant council seat controversy

After the death of long-time Coun. Pat Culhane in 2020, City Council was given two options on how they could fill the vacant council position:

  1. Hold a special by-election or 
  2. Appoint a replacement for the remainder of the term

Historically, the appointees have been runners-up from past elections, in part due to the cost of a special by-election being a minimum of $200,000.

Council voted on whether or not to appoint Coun. Tyler Allsopp, who was the next in-line by votes, but it failed in a 4-4 tie, with Coun. Sandison, McCaw, Kelly and Mayor Panciuk voting against it. A motion to strike a committee also failed.

Panciuk then created an ad hoc committee consisting of one Councillor, McCaw, and six handpicked members of the community to appoint a member of the public, giving regard to those who identify as female or non-binary, or who represent other elements of diversity in our community such as sexual orientation, indigenous status, race and/or disability.

In January 2021, Jennifer McTavish, who was on the city’s accessibility advisory committee, was selected and recommended in the full report.

Coun. McCaw, Sandison and Mayor Mitch Panciuk approved the report, but Coun. Kelly cast a tie-breaking vote not to receive the report

After the strong public support of appointing Allsop, five days later, council voted 7 to 1 to appoint Allsopp, with only Coun. McCaw voting against.

Less than 6 months later when Coun. Williams stepped down in March 2021 to run as the Conservative Candidate for the Bay of Quinte in the federal election, City Council moved in favour of appointing the next runner up in the previous election, Carol Feeney.

Panciuk said that the controversy during the previous appointment proceeding regarding the lack of gender diversity on city council would be resolved in this situation because the second runner-up is female.

Political views

Mitch Panciuk has not publicly stated support for any particular party.

Between 2014 and 2018, he donated $2,200 to candidates of the Progressive Conservative Party of Ontario including Daryl Kramp and Todd Smith. He has not donated since he became Mayor of Belleville.

Federally, Panciuk has donated $5,300 to the Conservative Party of Canada and its candidates since 2006 as well as $500 to NDP candidate Terry Cassidy in 2015. Panciuk’s wife Lisa has donated $3,500 to Conservative Party of Canada candidates Daryl Kramp and Jodie Jenkins since 2008.

Issues

Housing and homelessness

We’ve cleaned up 58 illegal encampments already this year in the city of Belleville because of health and hygiene issues and safety issues. We don’t want to see these tent cities that we see in other cities where all of a sudden you have different problems the police have to respond to Source

Currently, more than $14 million a year is provided to Hastings County, with $7.4 million of that going to help the disadvantaged in local communities. Unfortunately, not all of that money gets spent, Panciuk said, because some people refuse the help.Source

“Any type of housing, whether it be affordable housing, or even high-end housing helps, because it creates more supply in the market. So, this project to go ahead, would be phenomenal news and it’s nice to see this company recognizing that, and be willing to provide some housing for us.”Source

Personal life

Panciuk is married to Lisa. The couple has three daughters.

Open Council commentary

It appears that Panciuk is essentially running on a platform to extend his existing plans and focus areas from his current term as mayor. Whether one chooses to vote for Panciuk depends on how these priorities align with their own, but also on his efficacy during his first term.

While Panciuk has indeed spearheaded various plans and summits including the 2019 Housing Summit which led to the Community Improvement Plan (CIP) and the Parks and Recreation Master Plan, his campaign highlights investments made, but not the outcomes or results produced by those investments.

It is unclear how much tangible change has been achieved on the housing crisis – his “number one priority” – as results of the Community Improvement Plan (CIP) have not been published.

Electoral record

2018

CandidateVotes%Campaign Expenses
Mitch Panciuk5,23836.06%$35533.84
Taso Christopher3,68825.39%$23203.62
Egerton Boyce3,13221.56%$6689.13
Jodie Jenkins2,46917.00%$19864.05

Meetings

Contact

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