A northern B.C. municipality is set to take the unusual step of making appointments to local council instead of having them elected during the October municipal elections, after two out of four councillor seats were vacated — and no candidates put their name forward.
Village of Valemount Mayor Owen Torgerson, along with incumbent councillors Hollie Blanchette and Pete Pearson, were re-elected by acclamation on Sept. 20 after running unchallenged.
Now, they will have to appoint two more councillors after Sheri Gee and Donnie MacLean decided not to seek re-election.
According to B.C.'s Local Government Act, if a municipality has fewer officials by acclamation than it is supposed to elect, the newly acclaimed council will have to appoint a person to each of the vacant seats.
It is rare in B.C.'s political history for local governments to make appointments to local office. In a written statement to CBC News, the Ministry of Municipal Affairs said as far as it is aware, only the Village of Zeballos on Vancouver Island, last year, has appointed a person to council in a by-election due to a lack of candidates.
Valemount, a community of more than 1,000 residents, about 300 kilometres east of Prince George, had no other candidates for council apart from incumbents Blanchette and Pearson, even after it extended the nomination deadline from Sept. 9 to Sept. 12.
Torgerson says there are many reasons people do not want to run for public office, such as concerns around work-life balance and increasing online harassment against politicians.
"We were doing such a bang-up job that no one seemed to want to upset the applecart, but in all seriousness, there could be a multitude of situations where folks may not want to or be unable to fill that role," he told CBC Daybreak North host Carolina de Ryk on Tuesday.
Torgerson says his municipality is working with the Ministry of Municipal Affairs on the process of appointing two additional councillors after their first meeting in November.
Under the Local Government Act, the council must make appointments for the vacant seats within 30 days of their first meeting.
If they are unable to, the minister will make the appointment.
However, the ministry said in their statement that it has rarely made council appointments for municipalities.
Meanwhile, Torgerson is encouraging Valemount residents age 18 and above, who have lived in B.C. and are Canadian citizens, to consider taking on the councillor roles.