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What to expect as Castlegar gears up for by-election during pandemic

With the resignation of Castlegar Mayor Bruno Tassone, the city is undertaking the challenging task of a by-election during a pandemic.

Luckily, according to city communications manager Bree Seabrook, there have been enough elections since the appearance of Covid-19 to provide staff with direction on how to approach the issue in a safe and direct manner.

“There are lots of examples we can learn from, and assess best practices for moving forward,” Seabrook said.

Residents may be expecting council to appoint a chief elections officer at their regular council meeting this evening (Jan. 18), but Seabrook said this is also a complicated concern.

“The by-election has to be held on a Saturday, 80 days after appointing a chief elections officer,” she explained. “If they do it tonight, that would put the election right during Easter/spring break, so they may wait until early February, so the election is later in April.”

Tonight, council will likely discuss the ‘acting mayor’ issue – Florio Vassilakakis is currently deputy mayor. There is a deputy mayor schedule that rotates among the councillors from month to month, but it was only intended for short-term absences such as holidays, and is further complicated by committee appointments, some of which (like the RDCK) have alternates already in place, while others do not.

Adding to the logistical difficulty is legislation dictating that, should any of the sitting councillors wish to run for mayor, they must resign their current position with 14 days of the chief electoral officer’s appointment – greatly increasing the likelihood there will be more than one seat at the table to fill.

Regardless for what date the election is ultimately slated, there will be advanced polling 10 days before, and three days before, Election Day. Of course, pandemic protocols will be employed at polling stations.

Seabrook said mail-in ballots are a possibility for municipalities.

“The mail-in ballots require a Ministerial order from the Ministry of Municipal Affairs to move forward and are more challenging for staff to administer, but (the Corporate Services) team will be considering them as an option as they develop the plan for the by-election.Some municipalities have used them during recent elections, so they are reaching out to determine how they've worked out in other communities.”

Stay tuned to The Source for more details as they become available.