Town staff confirms a municipal byelection would cost upwards of $100,000

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Democracy is not cheap. If Huntsville Council opts for a byelection, should the position of mayor become vacant, the cost would be upwards of $100,000, according to municipal staff.

Huntsville councillors will be watching the results of the 2019 federal election closely once the polls close on October 21. If Scott Aitchison, the Conservative Party candidate, gets elected as this area’s Member of Parliament, the municipality will be required to declare the position of mayor as vacant at its October 28 meeting. From there, council will have 60 days to come up with a method to replace the head of council—whether by appointment or a costly byelection.

According to a staff report brought forward at council’s September 23, 2019 meeting, a byelection, should one be declared in order to fill the position, could cost anywhere from about $107,500 to $146,000 depending on the voting method used, with voting by internet and telephone running cheaper than by mail.

With a regular municipal election not scheduled until October 24, 2022, council will have a tough decision before it. On the one hand, a byelection is time-consuming, costly and an unbudgeted expense. On the other hand, some will argue that with roughly three years still left in the mandate, the head of council is a position too important not to be decided by the electorate.

Preparing for a byelection will take work. The process could take approximately five months, particularly as staff would have to adhere to specific timelines mandated under the Municipal Elections Act, 1996. That means if council decides to fill the position of mayor by holding a byelection, voting in a byelection may not take place until sometime in June 2020.

In the meantime, Huntsville clerk Tanya Calleja recommended that Huntsville council pass a bylaw to set the method by which a byelection would be conducted if one were to be called. On September 23, council opted to go with the staff’s recommendation that if a byelection were to be called, the method by which it would be conducted would be through internet and telephone voting.

You can find the report from municipal staff here.

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14 Comments

    • Come on! A “hard” decision? We are blessed with one of the most competent deputy mayors you could ask for. Appoint Karin Terziano…hard working no cost.
      All assuming Scott takes the riding, of course.

  1. Show some intelligence, save $100,000 and appoint Karin.
    Even if a vote was run she would be the winner.
    If Scott wins the federal post that is???

  2. Brian kinread on

    What would happen if a sports team ” hired away” a coach. They would pay compensation. Let Scott or the Conservative party pay for it.

  3. I completely agree with the selection of Ms. Terziano. She’s experienced, cost-conscious, and she is very accessible to the community; i.e. willing to discuss non-confidential matters with taxpayers. But a temporary position is considerably different from close to four years. Prior to all the speculation, has anyone even contacted her? And is it even respectful to discuss the necessity prior to the federal election? Isn’t that roughly proximate to discussing in public a matter which is before the courts; albeit the court of public opinion?
    .
    Furthermore, it should be noted that the cost of a by-election (using internet) would likely approach the $150K-threshold; given the recent problems with one particular company.

  4. Jacquie Howell on

    We the taxpayers are losers no matter how this plays out.. I agree Karin is a experienced. suitable and excellent choice for Mayor. If this should happen then it means we have a opportunist for MP.
    If Scott loses just remember this when we vote in 2020, that he had no respect for this town.

    • Don’t you think that is a bit harsh, Jacquie? Surely Scott has a right to run for another position in government without having to suffer slanderous accusations. As for having a by-election, why waste the taxpayers’ money? We all know who will win anyway. Karin Terziano would just fulfill the mandate that Scott was given (isn’t that the purpose of electing a deputy mayor?) She will make a great mayor. And it will save us all a lot of money that could go toward solutions to other problems. With taxpayers being potentially on the hook for the town’s share of hospital costs and the present housing crisis, do we really need to waste upwards of $100,000? Appointing Karin to fill in until the next municipal election makes total sense. We all wish MAHC was as cost conscious as Karin is. (Did MAHC really spend $500,000 on the task force that brought us no closer to laying one brick? REALLY??) $100K here, $500K there–after a while, it adds up to BIG money. Bureaucrats! Hmph!!

  5. Can’t believe I am reading this hoo-haw! Karin is an excellent choice, and as Deputy Mayor, she should hold the top position until the current term runs out. She worked well with Scott and hopefully will yell and scream as he did (on the MAHC baloney) when the occasion arises! Forget the additional costs of a by-election for now and just run with the existing staff if Scott wins the election. Save the estimated costs needed for a by-election and use it for other needs that we currently have! A definite no-brainer if you are fiscally responsible.

  6. It’s ironic that some positions on Huntsville council didn’t warrant a by-election just less than 4 mos into a new term in the 2014 election. Most of this current Council decided to choose their own Councillor then vs the more democratic direction of acclaiming the next Candidate, or going for the by-election in one ward. The democratic way is being circumvented in Huntsville it seems. So think about this, did any of this Council run for Mayor? Did the Deputy? It seems that this glitch in democracy is the result of Provincial legislation previous to this current government! This allows a Council to “pick their own buddy by interview” The only choice is to listen to the people who have voted for Mayor or have a by-election no matter what the cost.
    Perhaps the Ontario government needs to change the Municipal Act such that the former cannot happen, and the People’s vote is not flagrantly ignored! A by-election would be the choice of all Communities that make up the Town of Huntsville. It applies anywhere in Ontario for that matter.
    In fact, another serious issue for provincial legislative change involves any elected public official. If an individual in this capacity decides to run at a different level, it “shall” be mandatory to resign the current position. Leaving a position without proper representation is desertion. This should be covered in Ontario’s legislation! #onpoli #OPC #DougFord

    • Jonathan wiebe on

      Karen, how exactly would a sitting member of council have run to be mayor in the last election?
      If a byelection were held for mayor and a current member of council were to win the seat, should we then conduct another byelection to fill the seat they will vacate? Suppose that seat is a District seat and is then won by a sitting councillor from one of the wards, their seat would then be vacant and therefore, by your logic of always conducting a byelection, a third election would have to be called to fill that ward position.

      • Not necessarily Jonathan. I don’t believe having a by-election for the mayor position necessitates a subsequent by-election for a vacant seat. I believe there is a distinction between a mayor and other elected representatives on council. So in the event there is a by-election and a sitting member wins thereby creating a vacancy at the table I believe an appointment process is appropriate.
        I am a firm believer in the ability of the electorate to choose their head of council. I don’t believe the mayor should be appointed with so much time left in this mandate, even though the province allows it. Remember, only 10 years ago the entire mandate was only 3 years. I believe it is important for anyone seeking the mayor’s position should be willing to articulate their vision for their term and let the voters decide. If there was less than a year left in the term I believe it’s appropriate to have the deputy mayor run out the term. As a sitting councilor I am not comfortable in being part of a select group who will be responsible to pick, and be therefore responsible for the conduct of the next mayor. Not to mention if not agreeing to choose a sitting councilor and being out-voted by your colleagues, your future effectiveness at the table.
        As for the cost, I believe that’s the price we pay for democracy. I would also point out that in the report the cost included “consulting, supplies and staffing” which were not assigned numbers. I wonder how much the appointment process costs? I can guarantee that number isn’t zero.
        I hasten to add, this is in no way a comment on the abilities of Karin Terziano. I would think that even she would feel more legitimate in the role of mayor if she were chosen by the population at large.

  7. Waldi Frankiewicz on

    Under the Municipality Act (provincial legislation governing municipalities), when a member leaves the council, the council must meet to officially declare a vacancy at two consecutive council meetings. When this happens, the council may either fill the vacancy by by-election or appoint someone to the vacancy. This decision must be made within 60 days of the vacancy being announced.The municipality of Huntsville undoubtedly needs a new mayor and we will certainly do our best to announce early elections.After all, there are still more than three years to go before the next election.We cannot afford to make such an important decision on the basis of the maxim “The king died, Long live the king.In the last elections in 2018 there were many candidates who enjoyed the sympathy and trust of the public in Huntsville.Maybe I’ll remind you of some of them :
    Brian Thompson 3258 votes,Helena Renwick 2961 votes,Tim Withey 3081 votes,Dione Schumacher752 votes
    These are the people we voted for.They deserve our recognition and attention, but that doesn’t mean I favor them. In Huntsville we have a lot of young people who are highly educated and permanently associated with Muskoka.They’re the ones who’ll take care of Huntsville and its people someday.Let’s think about it on election day.

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