Smithereens will likely be going to the polls to elect a new mayor no later than Oct. 17.
A special meeting of town council has been scheduled for July 29 to appoint chief and deputy chief election officers. In the only agenda item for the meeting Town staff recommends appointing Diana Plouffe, director of corporate services as chief electoral officer and her executive assistant Jane Stevenson as deputy chief electoral officer with stipends of $1,500 and $1,000 respectively.
By provincial law, once appointed, Plouffe must set a date for the byelection, which must be held on a Saturday no more than 80 days from the date of her appointment. That makes the last possible date for the byelection Saturday, Oct. 17.
Only one candidate has expressed an intention to run for the mayor’s job, that being Smithers Deputy Mayor Gladys Atrill.
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.
Town staff put off the appointment of electoral officers as long as they could in order to try to get a referendum on a new $15 million library-art gallery project on the same ballot. But the B.C. Local Government Act requires municipalities to appoint election officials “as soon as practicable” following the death, disqualification or resignation of a locally elected official and CAO Alan Harris said they could not wait any longer for an announcement of whether the town would get a $12.8 million grant for the project.
Plouffe and Stevenson were previously appointed March 11, but the appointments were rescinded just one week later when the Province mandated the byelection be cancelled due to COVID-19.
At the end of March, the Town finally got word that the library-gallery grant application had been rejected by the Province and feds.
CAO Alan Harris said the Province lifted the restriction on byelections as part of the Phase 3 provisions of B.C.’s Restart Plan at the end of June. He explained the timing of the appointments took into consideration summer vacation and school restarting in September.
Meanwhile, Premier John Horgan just announced this week British Columbians might also be voting for a provincial government as early as this fall.