The Town of Smithers is going ahead with the appointment of a chief election officer and deputy chief election officer in anticipation of a mayoral byelection.
The appointments are scheduled to be made at a special open meeting of council March 11.
The Town has been officially without a mayor since Nov. 3, 2019 when Taylor Bachrach stepped down following his election as federal MP for Skeena-Bulkley Valley.
Municipal officials had been putting off appointing election officials pending the approval of a $12.8 million grant for the new library/art gallery project. Because Smithers will have to hold a referendum on borrowing its $1 million share of the financing for the project, the Town wanted to hold both the byelection and referendum concurrently.
However, B.C.’s Local Government Act requires municipalities to appoint election officials “as soon as practicable” following the death, disqualification or resignation of a locally elected official.
Chief Administrative Officer Alan Harris said it has simply become not practicable to hold off any longer.
In a report to council, Diana Plouffe, director of corporate services recommends appointing herself as chief electoral officer and her executive assistant Jane Stevenson as deputy chief electoral officer with stipends of $1,500 and $1,000 respectively.
Deputy Mayor Gladys Atrill said she is disappointed there is yet to be an announcement on the library/art gallery grant, but is still hopeful it will come in time to get the question on the same ballot as the mayoral vote.
“In some ways I’m kind of relieved, its taken a long time to get to the byelection process and people ask about it constantly,” she said. “People know we have to have a byelection, so now we’ll have that. I wish we had heard positive news about the grant because I think the library/gallery is an amazing project. I personally want to see it go forward so it would be exciting to know we have that question as well and I’m hoping we still get good news and that we’re able to go forward with that question, it’ll just be probably on a different day.”
Following the appointments, the chief electoral officer is required to set a date for the byelection, which must be set for a Saturday no later than 80 days following her appointment. If council approves the appointments, which Atrill said she was confident council would do, voting will have to be held no later than May 30.
So far, Atrill is the only candidate who has publicly expressed an intention to run for mayor.