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Coquitlam's 2022 election cost 23% more than budgeted

The tally for the 2022 vote in Coquitlam was $438,240, according to a report released this week by the chief election officer.
Coquitlam Coun. Robert Mazzarolo, a Burke Mountain resident, takes the oath of office at city hall after the 2022 civic election. | Janis Cleugh, Tri-City News

The cost to stage last fall's civic vote came in 23 per cent more than Coquitlam budgeted.

The $438,240 price tag for the general local election, held on Oct. 15, 2022, was revealed on Monday (June 5) as council-in-committee considered changes for the 2026 race.

By comparison, Port Coquitlam's election total was $152,122.

According to a report from Stephanie James, Coquitlam's general manager of legislative services, the city sets aside $150,000 each year for its Election Reserve to ready for elections every four years, as well as byelections.

Currently, the reserve balance is $211,760, "which would likely be insufficient to fund a byelection if needed," James wrote.

Among city staff's recommendations is to hike the annual reserve amount in the 2024 budget to meet the escalating costs for service and supply contracts.

For the 2022 round, Coquitlam had 23 polling stations — served by 225 election workers — of which 21 sites were on School District 43 property; SD43 did not charge the city for rental or staffing fees, James noted.

As well, to boost voter turn-out, city staff will also look at mail-in ballots for the 2026 vote — a method that’s allowed, by bylaw, in neighbouring jurisdictions under Section 110 of the Local Government Act, as well as at the provincial and federal level.

In her report, chief election officer Katie Karn wrote that voter turnout for Coquitlam's 2022 election was 20.33 per cent compared with:

  • Port Coquitlam = 18 per cent
  • Port Moody = 31 per cent
  • Anmore = 51 per cent
  • Belcarra = 75 per cent
  • Burnaby = 19 per cent
  • Pitt Meadows = 23 per cent

In total, Coquitlam had 32 candidates on the ballot: three for mayor, 22 for councillor and seven for school trustee. In the Tri-Cities, 80 contenders sought a seat on a civic or board of education table.

In addition, Coquitlam plans to implement a new policy to look at candidates' surplus campaign donations.

Under the Local Elections Campaign Finance Act, if a contender has $500 or more after a vote and doesn’t run again, the extra cash goes to the municipality.

For example, former councillor Chris Wilson had $3,654 left over from his 2018 run; he did not seek another term in 2022, so his campaign money went to the Coquitlam Foundation.

Under the proposed policy, any surplus campaign funds will be officially transferred to the City Initiatives Reserve — with the candidate picking their preferred non-profit organization for the donation, with council's OK.

Further for 2026, Coquitlam city staff will look at combining the candidates' brochures with the second voter notification about the election that's mailed out.

And James said they'll consider pulling the Victoria Community Hall as a voter station because of its low usage in the last two municipal elections: 250 people in 2018 and 483 in 2022.

Still, given the number of new residents on Burke Mountain, that proposal was condemned by the committee.

Meanwhile, Burke Mountain resident Coun. Robert Mazzarolo, who lost by nine votes in his 2018 bid, said city hall should stick to the same elections rules and procedures for all candidates; last year, one contender was given a four-day extension at the nomination period, he said.

"You open up a can of worms to so many negative possibilities when you move away from concrete deadlines," he told Karn — a comment echoed by Couns. Craig Hodge, Teri Towner and Matt Djonlic.

Hodge said 2022 candidates were also at a disadvantage with the schedule, losing a week in the nomination calendar.

And Djonlic complained about the candidate brochure package being mailed out too late, after advance voting started.

He also urged city staff to advertise the advance voting dates and locations better.