by Stacey Lavallie
CENTRAL MANITOULIN—When Adam Smith, one of two representatives for the Sandfield ward of Central Manitoulin, stepped down due to time constraints, eight people stepped up to fill his shoes.
In a decision that has raised some eyebrows, town council opted to appoint a person to the role rather than hold a by-election.
Council held a public information meeting last Wednesday in Sandfield that roughly 50 people attended. The general consensus among the attendees was that they would like an election to be held, but if it wasn’t possible, they would like someone from the ward itself to assume the vacant council chair.
According to councillor Bev Pearson-Trainor, the remaining Sandfield representative, the Municipal Act doesn’t specifically say the representative must come from the ward, though only people in the ward could vote if there was a by-election.
Glenn Black, John Finlay, Ronald Kenney, Ralph MacKenzie, Richard Stephens, Ted Taylor, Laura Wall-Varey and Gregory Young put their names forward for the position. Of the eight, only Ms. Wall-Varey, Mr. Finlay, Mr. Taylor and Mr. Young were from the Sandfield area.
At a Committee of the Whole on Friday, chaired by Ms. Pearson-Trainor, town council discussed the candidates.
“The very first thing I did was put forward a motion to have a by-election,” Reeve Gerry Strong said. “I felt we had to listen to the voice of our constituents.”
The motion was defeated.
After the motion was defeated, the candidate list was narrowed down to Mr. Taylor and Mr. Finlay.
“All of the candidates were good candidates,” Ms. Pearson-Trainor said. She said that at the meeting on Wednesday, attendees had filled out a questionnaire. In the questionnaire, a preference for Mr. Taylor and Mr. Finlay was expressed.
“It was a tie between Mr. Finlay and Mr. Taylor,” Ms. Pearson-Trainor said. “In the second vote, it went to Mr. Taylor.”
The recommendation to have Mr. Taylor fill the vacant seat will now move forward to the next town council meeting, scheduled for October 13.
Ms. Pearson-Trainor said she understood some people were concerned about the lack of a by-election.
“There are many reasons why we voted to not have an election,” she said. “In the last election, we had 276 people vote by mail and 23 at a polling station, for a total of 299. There are 706 registered voters in the ward.”
Ms. Pearson-Trainor said another factor was that, as this would have been a by-election, Canada Post does not assist with the by-mail ballot.
“Canada Post quoted us $5,000 last time,” she said. “If we did the mail ballot in house, it would cost more than $10,000, plus staff hours.”
The Expositor contacted Canada Post to inquire about the costs involved in conducting a vote-by-mail for 700 residents of a ward like Sandfield. According to representatives in the commercial sales department, the cost would come in between $1,200 and $2,000.
Another factor council had to consider in making a decision was time. According to Ms. Pearson-Trainor, it would take up to three months to tally all the votes, something that could cause difficulties in council.
“Short a councillor it is sometimes hard to reach a quorum,” she explained. “There are issues that have to be dealt with.”
Ms. Pearson-Trainor also said the decision in this instance sets precedent for the council.
“We could face this sort of issue two or three times per term,” she explained. “If we chose to have a by-election, it would set precedent. It could be very cost prohibitive.”
She said she was satisfied with the issue after doing her research and presenting the facts.
“Some of the people who attended the Wednesday meeting came on Friday and told me after that if they had been given all the facts on Wednesday, they wouldn’t have been so adamant about an election.”
Ms. Pearson-Trainor encouraged any resident who was concerned about the process to contact their councillors.