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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