With the municipal election set for October 18, 2021, the Town of Swan Hills has appointed Mr. Doug Borg as Returning Officer for the upcoming election.
The Returning Officer is tasked with ensuring that the election meets and follows through on the requirements of the Local Authorities Election Act (LAEA). Some of a Returning Officer's duties include appointing election workers, establishing voting stations, ordering all of the election supplies, giving notice of nominations, and receiving the nomination papers for prospective candidates. There are also strict timelines and deadlines that also must be followed. Mr. Borg has a long history of public service, as the former CAO of the Town of Swan Hills for a number of years and serving on the Council for Woodlands County.
According to Mr. Borg, the municipal election for Swan Hills is fairly simple compared to some large municipalities. The Town of Swan Hills has a single ward contained within the Town boundaries, whereas cities and larger rural municipalities are comprised of multiple wards. The residents of Swan Hills will be voting to elect the Town's Mayor and all six Town Councillor seats; these positions do not carry over from one term to the next. The Pembina School Board Trustee elections for the Pembina Hills School Division will be held on the same day with six trustee seats.
Doug Borg is currently assembling information packages for prospective candidates. These packages will include nomination papers, relevant information from Municipal Affairs, and usually a list of webpages with additional resources. The candidate packages should be available at the Town office within the next few weeks. Closer to the election, Municipal Affairs usually holds information sessions for potential candidates to provide more details and guidance.
As the election process picks up steam, the community will be notified when the candidate packages are available to be picked up. The Town will communicate updates in the election process and deadlines on the Town's website (townofswanhills.com), the Town's Facebook page (facebook.com/TownofSwanHills), in The Grizzly Gazette, and possibly in notices to be mailed with upcoming municipal utility statements. Completed nomination forms can be submitted to the Returning Officer right up until nomination day, which is generally four weeks before the date of the election.
Part of Mr. Borg's duties in facilitating the election is establishing days for advance polling. With Town Council's approval, two dates will be selected to provide options for those who may be unable to vote on election day. These dates will then be announced to the community so that people can plan how and when they will submit their vote.
After the election, the Returning Officer collects the ballots and facilitates counting the votes. Unofficial vote tallies are usually announced on election night, but in accordance with the LAEA, there is a waiting period before the results can be accepted officially. The LAEA specifies this waiting period in case the election results are contested. When the election results have been officially accepted, the Returning Officer submits this information to Municipal Affairs.
Mr. Borg recommends that interested potential candidates attend Town Council meetings to see how these meetings are conducted, what type of issues are discussed, and how resolutions are passed. Town Council meetings are public, although they may include an "in camera" portion that is private to Council members. Council members are expected to represent the Town on various regional, municipal, and community boards and committees, which are also generally public. Attending these meetings will allow any interested party to get a feel for the commitment that is involved.
In order to run for Town Council, candidates must be 18 or over and live in the ward in which they are running. In rural municipalities with one ward, the candidate must have lived in that ward for at least the six months leading up to election day. As Mr. Borg stated, "If you are eligible to vote, you are generally eligible to run." Anyone interested in running for the Swan Hills/Fort Assiniboine School Trustee position is urged to visit the Election 2021 webpage on the Pembina Hills School Division website (www.pembinahills.ca/school-board/election-2021) for more information.
Dean LaBerge, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Grizzly Gazette