CENTRAL MANITOULIN—A recount of the Ward 2 ballots from the October 22 municipal election in Central Manitoulin has led to a reversal of results in that contest. On election night, John Bisaillon was declared the winner of a council seat by two votes, tallying 324 votes to Steve Shaffer’s 322, but a recount ordered by council at its October 25 meeting resulted in that tally reversing, with the new result showing Mr. Shaffer ahead by two votes, 324 to 322 for Mr. Bisaillon.
Contacted by The Expositor on Monday, Mr. Shaffer was still digesting the news. “I found the result quite surprising,” he admitted. “I went in expecting the count to be upheld. I haven’t even told my wife yet,” he said. “I am just waiting for her to get home from work to tell her.”
As for what the future holds, things are somewhat up in the air. “I guess it will depend on what other people decide to do at this point,” said Mr. Shaffer. “We are kind of in uncharted territory right now.”
John Bisaillon was cautious in his response to the news, having just heard from his wife who had acted as his scrutineer during the recount. “All I can really say is that I will have to wait until I hear officially from the CAO, Ruth Frawley, of the results and then weigh what my options are before making a comment,” he said. As of Monday evening, Mr. Bisaillon had not yet heard from the CAO.
“I am not sure exactly what happens next,” admitted Central Manitoulin CAO/Clerk Ruth Frawley. “I have a call in to Municipal Affairs for direction. Right now I am not certain if another recount can be called by the other candidate or what happens. We will just have to wait and see how we are expected to proceed on this situation.”
The recount had come about following a request for the recounts filed by candidates in each ward. At its October 25 meeting, council approved a pair of recommendations coming forward from the Office and Administration Committee to conduct a recount of ballots from Ward 1 and Ward 2 in the October 22 municipal election. The motion calls for the recount to take place within 15 days.
The recommendation to council to recount the ballots in Ward 1 was moved in committee by Mayor Richard Stephens and Councillor Linda Farquhar. The recommendation to council to recount the ballots in Ward 2 was moved by Councillor Dale Scott and Councillor Derek Stephens.
When the recommendation for a recount came to council, Councillor Stephens declared a conflict on the motion—Councillor Stephens ran in Ward 1. The ballot result in Ward 1 was 180 votes for Councillor Stephens and newcomer Angela Johnston, both winning a seat on council. David Gilchrist received 112 votes.
The council motion to recount the ballots in Ward 1 was moved by Councillor Pat MacDonald and seconded by Councillor Linda Farquhar.
The recommendation to recount the votes in Ward 2, where the result was much closer, was moved in committee by Councillor Dale Scott and seconded by Councillor Stephens. In Ward 2 Councillor Scott received 412 votes, handily retaining his seat on council, while candidates Mr. Bisaillon received 324 votes to be declared a winner of the other Ward 2 seat, followed closely by Mr. Shaffer, who received 322 votes—a difference of two.
“This was at the request of one of the candidates,” noted Councillor Macdonald. “We approved it to keep everyone happy.”
The recount in Ward 1 was set for 1:30 pm today (Wednesday). By 4:30 pm on Monday, the results of the new tally for Ward 2 were in showing that the positions of Mr. Bisaillon and Mr. Shaffer had reversed.
CAO/Clerk Frawley noted that she would be conducting the recount, but that she would only be counting the ballots as determined by the Deputy Returning Officer. No ballots declared as spoiled would be revisited. “That is up to a judge to determine,” she said. “I just count them as the DRO counted them. If someone wants to dispute the ballots, they have to go to a judge.”
Ms. Frawley asked council if the wanted all the ballots counted for each candidate or just for an individual candidate. It was determined that all ballots for all candidates in each ward would be counted.
The motion to recount the ballots in Ward 2 was moved by Councillor Scott and seconded by Councillor Patricia MacDonald. “It makes sense to recount the ballots because it was so close,” said Councillor MacDonald. In the end that sentiment was borne out by the result.