Victoria council is pushing for a December byelection despite city clerk Chris Coates expressing “trepidation” at the move.
A byelection was planned for earlier this year after Laurel Collins stepped down from council after being elected an Member of Parliament in October, but – like so many other events – had to be cancelled as the pandemic took hold.
A report by Coates came forward during Thursday’s Committee of the Whole meeting. It said a byelection might not be possible until early next year so as not to overlap with statutory holidays. Coun. Jeremey Loveday voiced the idea of piggybacking onto the possible provincial election so as to share Plexiglas dividers and other relevant infrastructure that would assist the city in holding a safe and healthy byelection this year.
Coates said the earliest date Victoria could hold a byelection with all the necessary procedures in place would be Dec. 12 but he was hesitant due to the immense amount of planning still required. A more favourable date would be in February or March of 2021, said Coates.
“I find it extremely challenging to make a commitment that we could pull this off on Dec. 12,” said Coates.
Planning around where polls could be held, along with asking the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing for an order that would expand mail-in voting to anyone who wanted that option are needed before a byelection can be held.
Currently, only people who will be away from the municipality at the general or advanced voting times or those with an illness, injury or physical disability that affects their ability to vote are allowed to use mail-in ballots.
According to Coates, “pretty much everything” that was not core business would need to be stopped in order to make the December byelection possible.
The city would have no less than 80 days to hold the byelection after appointing a Chief Election Officer. Staff are being asked to report back on Oct. 1 with an answer to whether or not the byelection could be held on Dec. 12, which would leave 72 days to figure out the logistics of the byelection, along with notifying the public and candidates.
Coate’s report also states that when the April 4 byelection was cancelled, it had used up approximately $90,000 of the $170,000 budgeted for the process, adding that there will be significant extra costs that come with conducting an election during the pandemic. Staff are also being asked to report back with a budget request for proceeding with a byelection during the pandemic.