UXBRIDGE: A byelection will be held this fall to fill the seat on council that was vacated when Ward 3 Councillor Pat Mikuse tragically passed away earlier this summer.
Councillors came to the decision at their meeting on the morning of Monday, Aug. 10 after officially declaring the Ward 3 seat vacant.
“I don’t think that any of us ever expected to be in this situation,” commented Mayor Gerri Lynn O’Connor. “With three-quarters of a term left, we have to deal with this, certainly not with an appointment, but an election.”
Councillors supported a recommendation from the Clerk’s Department for the timeline, which will see a nomination period from Sept. 15 to Oct. 9, with voting day slated for Monday, Nov. 23.
As has been the case for almost two decades in the municipality, the election will take place using mail-in ballots.
However, with the compressed timeframe for the election, Ward 2 Councillor and Deputy Mayor Pat Molloy expressed concern over the ability for candidates to effectively campaign.
“Since this, is a mostly rural riding, I have some concerns over vote-by-mail and the timing, it leaves limited time for candidates to campaign. I know from walking through a rural area that it’s very time consuming,” explained Councillor Molloy. “It only leaves three, maybe four weeks to campaign and with it, they’d only have three weeks to advertise in the newspaper.”
Councillor Molloy inquired as to whether any changes could be made to give potential candidates more time on the campaign trail, including possibly reverting back to traditional ballot boxes.
“What if it wasn’t mail-in? We’re talking about 1,400 votes in this election, could we hold it with actual polling stations?”
However, Township Clerk Debbie Leroux noted that changing from mail-in ballots would cause a great deal of added work for township staff.
“We haven’t had a traditional paper election since 1997. And, I assure you that if we were going to go that way, Nov. 23 would not come close to happening,” said Ms. Leroux. “We would essentially be starting over with our policies, and as well, it’s a timing issue for staff. In a normal election, council takes recess and that won’t happen this time. We need to put together a voting list and make sure we have sufficient staff levels.”
Ms. Leroux did explain to councillors that they had the option of holding a special council meeting to begin the election early, and give more time for the nomination period.
However, Regional Councillor Jack Ballinger endorsed the proposed timeframe.
“I think that 45 days is plenty of time for the candidates to be able to get out there. I’d wonder why they couldn’t get out to those 1,400 voters in that time,” opined Councillor Ballinger.
Councillors were split on the matter of the timeline, with Ward 4’s Fred Bryan and Councillor Ballinger voting to endorse the proposal, while Councillor Molloy and Ward One representative Pam Beach were opposed. Ultimately, Mayor O’Connor would break the tie with a positive vote.
First elected to the post in 2006, Ward 3 Councillor Pat Mikuse passed away on Tuesday, July 7. In October, she won a third term on the council bench taking 581 votes, ahead of Bob Harrison (392) and Bruce Rodman (108).
Ms. Leroux told The Standard that Ward 3 residents should receive their ballots for the byelection in early November, and can either return them through the mail, or in person at Uxbridge Town Hall (51 Toronto St. South).