County of Stettler council approved changing the boundaries of its electoral wards for next fall’s municipal election.
The decision, along with other election verdicts, was made at the Dec. 9 regular council meeting.
Director of Municipal Services Andrew Brysiuk presented the report on proposed ward boundary changes, and noted these changes come about because of growth.
“Due to population growth and village dissolutions, the population distribution of our wards has grown unevenly,” stated Brysiuk.
He stated the county gathered information through a survey to see what county residents thought of the proposed changes.
“Surveys were distributed and 55 responses were collected by the deadline.
Seventy-five per cent of respondents preferred the proposal presented today, 22 per cent preferred the proposal with six wards and an elected mayor and three per cent had no preference,” stated Brysiuk.
Noting the bylaw to change the wards had passed first reading then been publicly advertised, Brysiuk noted the response was sparse.
“The bylaw was advertised and no comments or petitions were received,” he stated. “Additionally, all owners of property with a residence in areas where the ward is changing were directly notified of the changes by letter.”
Councillors unanimously approved second and third reading of the ward boundary change which will take effect for the next municipal election in fall of 2021.
Councillors appointed a returning officer, Doreen Nixon, and deputy returning officer, Tammy Walker, for next fall’s election after reading a staff report.
“The county approached Doreen Nixon as she has successfully run several of our past elections and she is willing to continue to fulfill this role for us,” stated Brysiuk’s report.
“The Local Authorities Election Act (LAEA) now requires we also appoint a substitute returning officer, in case the returning officer should be unable to perform their duties for any reason. This role can also be a deputy returning officer in accordance with the act.
“We typically do not involve county staff in the election, to keep administration at arms-length from the process.
"While not strictly necessary, it has worked well for us in the past, especially with more limited staff resources.
"One exception to this will be needed starting this year, as some staff will need to be appointed deputy returning officers by the returning officer to receive nominations starting Jan. 1, 2021.
“Voting station workers will be hired by the returning officer, appointed as deputy returning officers and paid at a rate set by council.”
Brysiuk noted the deputies will be especially handy now as the nomination period will run for nine months.
He also noted that having the election overseen by non-staff helps with public perception, as in the past if there is a contested ward and a close election, the staff sometimes get accused of giving preferential treatment to one candidate.
Brysiuk also stated election workers count each ballot up to five or six times.
Coun. Wayne Nixon, examining the budgeted amount of $17,500 for the municipal election, stated he felt that sounded a bit high.
Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) Yvette Cassidy responded that number is a bit low, as the municipal election will probably cost closer to $30,000.
Coun. James Nibourg stated increasing the nomination period from two hours to nine months has driven costs up.
“It’s borderline insane,” said Nibourg. “It’s not even crazy, it’s stupid.”
Coun. Dave Grover agreed the nine month nomination period is too long, but also felt having non-staff handle the election makes the process open and accountable.
Councillors unanimously approved the returning and deputy returning officer’s appointments.
Stu Salkeld, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, East Central Alberta Review