The RDN will ask the B.C. government about a possible exemption from a byelection for a vacant regional director position.
Chief and deputy election officers were set to be named at a Jan. 11 meeting, setting the wheels in motion for a March 26 vote to replace Electoral Area C director Maureen Young, who died in the fall after a battle with cancer. However, given the timing of the next local government election as well as COVID-19 health and safety concerns, the board directed staff to inquire with B.C. Minister of Municipal Affairs Josie Osborne about options.
“My understanding is … if we made the call to Minister Osborne, she could actually waive that rule,” Brian Wiese, Qualicum mayor and director, said at the meeting. “I think the only reason she would is it is a significant cost at this point for a six-month posting.”
Sheryl Armstrong, Nanaimo director, said “it’s worth a try” to ask for an exemption from a byelection.
“These are exceptional circumstances, especially with the rise of Omicron and everything. I personally would like to see it be put forward to the minister…” she said. “They don’t want people going out. We’re going to look at having mail-in votes, all of that.”
Both Delcy Wells, RDN general manager of corporate services, and Doug Holmes, RDN CAO, said the province wasn’t likely to allow an exception.
“We have had advice in the past that we’re very unlikely to succeed in doing that because the election is such a fundamental obligation in the legislation,” Wells told the board. “But we’re happy to try it if that is the wish of the board.”
Holmes pointed to a similar situation in the City of Nanaimo after Coun. Larry McNabb died in December 2010. The city was still required to hold a byelection.
The board won’t proceed with byelection planning until staff have had a chance for further communication with the B.C. Ministry of Municipal Affairs.