Coquitlam residents who want to run in next year’s municipal election may need to have 10 nominators — five times more than what’s currently needed.
That’s one change proposed for the city’s Election Administration and Procedures Bylaw, which came before council-in-committee last Tuesday (Sept. 7).
Under the planned bylaw amendments, city staff are recommending several updates to align with the new provincial rules and to respond to feedback from candidates, workers and voters about how the 2018 race was conducted.
And one suggestion is to boost the minimum number of nominators, as provincial legislation allows cities to set the number of nominators at 10 or 25.
“If you can’t get 10, you shouldn’t be running,” Coun. Brent Asmundson said.
But under the proposed changes, Coquitlam city staff aren’t recommending that candidates place a nomination deposit. Deposits, of which up to $100 are allowed to be set, are returned after the vote and the paperwork is turned in.
“There should be no financial burden to get your name on the ballot,” opined Coun. Dennis Marsden, noting the expense to launch a municipal campaign, while Asmundson argued that a minimum deposit of $50 be required to weed out the number of candidates who are not serious with running for office.
Other proposed election bylaw amendments include:
- Limiting the sign height to two metres
- Allowing earlier voting, with the first advance voting opportunity to be held on Oct. 3, 2022
- Shifting unclaimed surplus campaign funds from candidates not running for re-election to the Coquitlam Foundation
- Increasing the election cap reserve by $100,000, to $600,000, for potential recounts
- Improving compensation and working conditions for election staff
Coun. Chris Wilson said he liked the proposed pay hike for election workers.
According to a report from Jay Gilbert, Coquitlam’s director of intergovernmental relations and legislative services, the city recruited 266 workers to run the civic election in 2018; however, 65 quit in the lead up due to concerns with remuneration, long hours and working conditions.
In addition, despite the popularity of mail-in ballots for federal elections, Coquitlam city staff aren’t recommending them for local elections because of the high cost and low uptake — a move supported by Mayor Richard Stewart.
As well, city staff are considering phasing out the use of schools as polling stations, Gilbert said.
Under B.C.’s Local Government Act, municipal election bylaws have to be set at least 56 days before the first day of the nomination period for the general election, and at least 42 days prior to the first day of the nomination period for a by-election.
Gilbert’s report comes in the middle of the federal election campaign, in which Coquitlam Coun. Bonita Zarrillo is the NDP candidate for the riding of Port Moody-Coquitlam (in Port Coquitlam, Coun. Laura Dupont is the NDP candidate for the riding of Coquitlam-Port Coquitlam).
The federal vote is on Monday (Sept. 20).
The province requires municipal by-elections to be held if a vacancy occurs before Jan. 1 in the year of the general local election.
In a statement to the Tri-City News, the Ministry of Municipal Affairs confirmed that the Local Government Act provides that councils must hold a by-election as soon as feasible following a vacancy on city council.
The next general local election is scheduled for Oct. 15, 2022.
The 2018 civic election cost Coquitlam taxpayers about $311,000.