Incumbent councillor Angie Desmarais of Ward 2 in Port Colborne was in the middle of having hip surgery when she learned she had lost the municipal election — after her opponent's name was picked out of a box.
"I feel that it takes the office of the municipal councillor or the results of a recount and brings it down to the status of a board game," said Desmarais about the way Eric Beauregard was chosen for the job.
On election night, Oct. 24, Desmarais and Beauregard were tied with 342 votes, prompting a recount on Oct. 31. The rules are all there in Section 56(1)(a) of the Municipal Elections Act. The votes were recounted and the numbers didn't change. The tie would have to be broken by lottery — a name being picked out of a box.
Beauregard's name was pick to claim the second of two councillor spots in Ward 2, alongside Tim Hoyle, who collected 352 votes.
"To be honest, I was quite surprised when my name was pulled to be the next candidate," Beauregard said.
The way the Ward 2 councillor winner was chosen isn't the only quirky municipal moment in this year's election in Port Colborne, which has a population of about 18,000. Bill Steele won re-election over his brother Charles Steele in the two-person mayoral race, which made headlines because the two haven't spoken to each other in three decades.
For her part, Desmarais said the tie-breaking process needs an update, and she would like to see a commission re-examine the Municipalities Act and reform it.
"The recount as a whole — it really should have gone to the voters to make the decision," said Desmarais.
Beauregard has a slightly different view.
"I think it's a process that is fair… the only alternative process I can think of is that you have a byelection, but a byelection would result in a lot of extra resources — a lot of money that would be on the taxpayer — the taxpayer would take that on."
Reforms and moving forward
"The Municipal Elections Act needs to be updated 100 per cent," said Nicole Goodman, an assistant professor of political science at Brock University in St. Catharines
"The act as it's currently written is very prescriptive for supervised voting [in person], but for all unsupervised voting modes which are really predominant in Ontario [telephone, mail-in, online voting], there's no written codes or what to do around unsupervised voting, even though the majority of the province is voting that way," said Goodman.
Desmarais said updating the act on topics such as tie-breakers and residency requirements are needed.
"From A to Z, let's look at it. Let's get there and bring it to today's standard," said Desmarais. "Look at it with fairness and equity, never mind about economy, although it's very important — fairness and equity are more important."
Desmarais's campaign focused on reducing living costs for local residents and new infrastructure plans, as well as improving living conditions for senior residents.
Beauregard wished Desmarais luck and said, "I'm thankful to Angie Desmarais, who unfortunately lost with the drawing of the name. She spent three terms on council and she did an excellent job representing the ward."