Coquitlam City Hall broke its silence for the first time since last fall to address the lack of a byelection to replace Bonita Zarrillo — and the upcoming legal action by a former city councillor.
On Monday (March 28), city manager Peter Steblin reiterated a motion unanimously endorsed by city council last October that called for the provincial government to waive the byelection requirement.
Former councillor Neal Nicholson and fellow Coquitlam resident Wayne Taylor are suing the city and council members for not conducting a byelection to replace Zarrillo, who was elected as MP.
Steblin told council that the timing for a byelection was difficult given the pandemic, weather-related challenges and the proximity to the next general election to be held in October 2022.
And because senior city managers were overwhelmed, Steblin took on the byelection file himself.
He said the city believes a byelection isn’t “practical or desirable,” especially for candidates, and he’s “disappointed” about the legal action, as well as the lack of leadership by the province.
Steblin also challenged the provincial government to update its legislation around byelections.
According to the Local Government Act, a byelection is supposed to be held if a vacancy occurs before Jan. 1 of the year of the general election; Zarrillo resigned on Oct. 1, 2021.
Coun. Dennis Marsden, who made the original motion last October to waive the byelection, wasn’t at Monday’s meeting. Council offered no feedback to Steblin’s comments.
The city has retained Lidstone & Company to respond to Nicholson and Taylor’s petition.