Petition launched to restart Victoria council byelection
Victoria's byelection to fill the city council's one vacant seat was originally scheduled to take place on April 4: (Google Maps)
VICTORIA -- An online petition has been launched calling on the City of Victoria to reschedule the byelection for a new city councillor as soon as possible, after it was postponed earlier this year due to COVID-19.
The B.C. government postponed multiple byelections in March due to health concerns related to the COVID-19 pandemic. Victoria’s vote was scheduled for April 4 to replace former councillor Laurel Collins, who stepped down after being elected as the MP for Victoria in October.
Byelection candidate Stephen Andrew has launched an online petition to have the postponed vote rescheduled “safely and without delay.”
According to Elections BC, several postponed byelections have been rescheduled amid the pandemic, including ones in Dawson Creek, Greenwood and in the Arrow Lakes School District.
On Wednesday morning, Coun. Jeremy Loveday said that he was in support of rescheduling the byelection.
“I support calling a byelection for the City of Victoria as soon as it is safely possible do so,” said Loveday in a tweet. “More democracy is better.”
Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry has said her office has been working with electoral officials to develop a plan should a provincial election be called for this fall.
On Wednesday, the B.C. government announced new guidelines for local governments to follow when hosting a byelection during the pandemic.
Some of the guidelines include offering expanded mail-ballot voting options, organizing more advanced voting options, setting up physically distant in-person voting stations or potentially creating drive through voting options.
With guidelines now released, municipalities must develop local voting plans, in consultation with the B.C. government.
“We appreciate the guidelines that the province has set out today,” said Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps in a statement Wednesday.
“Staff will be reviewing these and continuing their discussions with the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing to determine the next steps to safely proceed with a byelection as soon as possible,” she said.
The City of Victoria says that a byelection could take place as early as this fall. However, the municipality says it is too early to provide an exact date.
Before voting can take place, a byelection report must first be created by city staff. The report then has to be approved by city council.
“City staff will bring a report forward to council in September outlining the process with potential byelection dates,” said Helps.
Council will then need time to review the report, according to a city spokesperson.
A similar electoral process took place last year, when city council approved staff’s recommendation of holding a cheaper byelection with fewer polling stations, rather than a larger-scale, more expensive option.