Tofino has pegged March 6 for its municipal byelection.
The district’s manager of corporate services Elyse Goatcher-Bergmann was appointed the town’s chief elections officer during a special council meeting on Wednesday evening, starting an 80-day deadline for an election to be held.
In a presentation to council during the meeting, Goatcher-Bergmann laid out a timeline for the March 6 byelection with nomination packages scheduled to become available on Jan. 6 and the nomination period to run from Jan. 19 – Jan. 29.
The election was made necessary after the resignation of former mayor and now Mid Island-Pacific Rim MLA Josie Osborne and the district has budgeted $19,968 to cover the anticipated costs of supplies, notification and advertising mandates as well as election official salaries.
Osborne is now B.C.’s minister of municipal affairs and Goatcher-Bergmann explained she will be reaching out to Osborne’s ministry to request ministerial orders that would allow for several changes to the town’s election procedures, related to mail-in voting and the COVID-19 pandemic.
Goatcher-Bergmann said over ten ministerial orders have been handed out throughout the province since August, including reducing touch interactions by allowing oral declarations and adjusting mail-in ballot procedures.
She said Tofino plans to request an order that would allow anyone who wants to vote by mail to do so.
“Currently, the Local Government Act only permits voting by mail by persons who have a physical disability, illness or injury that affects their ability to vote. We’d like to expand that to anyone who would choose to vote in this matter,” she said.
She said she also plans to ask for permission to use sleeves for mail-in ballots, rather than the envelopes that Tofino’s current bylaw mandates.
“This might seem like a small consideration but, as this is our first time doing mail-in ballots, we did consult with a lot of other municipalities about their experiences,” she said. “A secrecy sleeve was preferred by other local governments because a lot of the time they ended up ripping the ballot when they opened the secrecy envelope.”
She suggested she expects the ministry to take roughly two weeks to process Tofino’s request.
Along with a new mayor, the town is also expected to elect two new councillors as current councillors Dan Law and Andrea McQuade have announced they will both be running for mayor and must resign their councillor seats to do so.