CENTRAL MANITOULIN – During its November 28 meeting, council voted to accept (with regrets) the resignation of Councillor Linda Farquhar, declared her Ward 3 (Sandfield) seat vacant and opted to hold a mail-in ballot byelection to fill the vacant council position.
The motion to declare the seat vacant and to hold a byelection by mail-in ballot was moved by Councillor Steve Shaffer and seconded by Councillor Derek Stephens.
“There hasn’t been an election in Sandfield for quite some time,” said Councillor Stephens. “The seats have either been acclaimed or appointed. This is a good opportunity to go out to the citizens. Al (Councillor Al Tribinevicius) is a good guy, but I don’t think we should appoint a second councillor.”
“I know an election is expensive,” said Councillor Tribinevicius, “around $8,000 to run.”
“I am inclined to agree with Councillor Stephens,” said Mayor Richard Stephens. “Democracy costs money, but I prefer to opt for the democratic approach. I admit that when Al was appointed, I wanted to fast-track it.”
Mayor Stephens went on to note that his original instinct was to reduce the council table from six council members to four. “But I was told by the ministry (Municipal Affairs) we couldn’t decide to do that mid-stream. I think this is an opportunity to put the democratic process in the hands of the people where it should be.”
Councillor Angela Johnston asked what the timeframe for the byelection would be.
CAO Ruth Frawley replied that it would take 60 days to assemble the necessary advertisements in the newspaper and the electoral rolls. “I think it would take at least two full months,” she said, adding “and I have an audit coming up.”
“If we get an acclamation?” queried Councillor Dale Scott.
“We would know right away, but we still would have to pay the fees,” said Ms. Frawley. “There would still be costs.”
“Would we include an all-candidates night?” asked Councillor Tribinevicius. Mayor Stephens indicated his support for that concept, should more than one candidate appear for the position.
Councillor Stephens pointed out that “because our system is set up where anyone from the municipality can run in any ward, we have had people express an interest in this seat. I don’t think there has been an election in this ward for the last three go-rounds. I would like to see an election this time.”
Councillor Shaffer said he would be supporting the motion to hold a byelection, rather than appointment of a new councillor. “I admit I too struggled with the cost, especially when we are likely to end up with the same person as we would if we were to appoint someone. I feel little inclination to appoint to council—I have a philosophical difficulty with that.”
Council proceeded to a vote, councillors Stephens, Tribinevicius, Shaffer and Mayor Stephens voted in favour of the motion, with councillors Scott and Johnston voting against.
No date was set for the election.