Editorial: Byelection will cost Powell River taxpayers

Something went awry in the last City of Powell River election, but it was not the fault of voters, at least not the majority of them.

Results for the sixth and final seat on council were declared annulled by BC Supreme Court justice Joel Groves after he found four people may have been ineligible to vote on October 20. Who those four people voted for is the big question.

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The decision to hold a byelection was based on Supreme Court of Canada precedent. The number of questionable ballots exceeded the difference between candidate George Doubt’s 1,766 votes and Al Drummond’s 1,764, so a byelection must be held.

It may be the law now, but it should be changed for instances such as this in the future to avoid the burden now placed on the local electorate and taxpayers.

Voters made their decision on October 20, they just don’t know the real result, other than it wasn’t 1,766 to 1,764 for Doubt.

Rather than waiting until April to fill that open seat, residents would be better served by a coin flip to decide which of the two joins the mayor and other five councillors at the table.

Peachland mayor Cindy Fortin retained her position by drawing lots when she and opponent Harry Gough ended up in a tie in that community’s election. Wouldn’t that be a simple fix to decide between Doubt and Drummond? It’s similar to deciding a soccer game on penalty kicks: cruel but incredibly efficient.

To determine who actually earned that sixth seat, remove the ineligible votes on those four ballots from the total for Drummond and Doubt. Who wins then? That’s all we need to know. Several people, including the judge and Drummond, have looked the addresses of those who voted and found that four of them may have been ineligible to vote. So, who really won?

It may have been close, or even a tie, but the result is in the ballots cast on October 20. And if it was a tie? Drawing lots was good enough for Peachland, so it would be good enough for Powell River, too.

A new vote diminishes the democratic rights of eligible city residents who went to the polls that day. Unless every eligible voter who marked a ballot does so again on byelection day, the result will be skewed.

Other candidates who ran in the last election are allowed to run again, even though both Doubt and Drummond defeated them. Even more ridiculous is the fact that any other resident can also join the race.

Another election to determine something already decided by eligible voters is a waste of taxpayers’ time and money. Drawing lots or flipping coins may leave a sour taste in some people’s mouths, but so does spending up to $45,000 on an unnecessary byelection.

~This editorial has been updated from the Friday, January 18, version, which stated that several people have looked at the ineligible ballots. Subsequent dates to the first mention of October 20 as the general election date have also been corrected.

Copyright © Powell River Peak


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