Tradition vs. policy in Cardston-area elections

·4 min read

Cardston and the County border a number of municipalities, both villages and towns, where the processes of electing councils differ. After consultation with administrators and elected officials across the zone, it is clear that villages seem to be operating based more on tradition, whereas the election processes in towns and the county are dictated by policy.

In the village of Glenwood, there are five seats on council for which a person can be nominated and run at-large. At-large means that the councillors would not represent a certain area of the village, but the entire community. Each voter can select up to five councillors from the list of candidates who have put their name forward. They do not have to select five, however, and choosing five can sometimes water down your vote if there is only one individual you prefer amongst the rest. After said election determines the members of council, “there is a vote of the councillors to elect the mayor, but they often choose the councillor with the most votes as that demonstrates he/she is the most popular or trusted councillor” said Marilee, assistant CAO in the village of Glenwood. According to CAO Scott Donselaar, the village of Stirling operates much the same way: “We have no policy around the Mayor/Deputy selection process but it is tradition”. Mayor Trevor Lewington further describes the situation by saying “Stirling’s Council technically reappoints the Mayor and Deputy Mayor each year during the annual organizational meeting that takes place in October. This holds the Mayor accountable to his or her peers on Council knowing the title and role could be removed due to lack of performance or some other issue. Our custom (and usually past practice) is that the person with the most number of votes after a municipal election becomes the Mayor and the person with the second most votes becomes the Deputy Mayor and that these roles are held by those people for the duration of the four-year term.”

The towns of Magrath, Fort Macleod, Pincher Creek and Cardston differ from the nearby villages as they have a separate vote for mayor during the regular council election. Each voter can select one candidate for mayor, and up to six candidates for council. The Municipal Government Act stipulates that a council normally has seven seats (six plus mayor), but that the number can be reduced or increased through bylaw as long as there are not fewer than three. Communities further away, towns such as Coalhurst and Nobleford, have chosen to keep council sizes smaller (five) as they grow and as interest in candidacy increases. Both of those towns have councils of five that were elected by acclamation in 2017, meaning only enough individuals ran for council to fill the seats available and therefore no vote was necessary.

Counties are different from towns and villages because they have divisions (similar to a ward system), where a voter can only select one candidate to represent them, even though there are seven seats around the council table. This is because each candidate runs to represent only their specific division or regional boundary. Calgary and Edmonton, as well as many other counties and municipal districts that cover vast geographical areas, operate a similar way, with voters electing regional representation.

Reeve Randy Bullock, of the county, shares “Cardston County recently reconfigured the layout of our seven divisions last year to help bring more balance to the population that each councillor represents so each is proportional with about 700 people each, although some are more or less populated”. Boundary lines between wards or divisions are typically drawn based on roadways and natural geographical boundaries like rivers.

After county residents have selected their seven representatives, there is an internal council vote to determine the reeve and deputy reeve each year. This vote is made by secret ballot, which Reeve Bullock states is a “good way to protect the camaraderie and functionality around council”.

Protecting the camaraderie and functionality of each council is very important, as the terms for council positions in each of the municipalities is four years. If a council member has to leave their seat prior to the next general election, there usually has to be a by-election to replace him or her, which is an extra cost for the community. So, whether you live in the Town of Cardston, or a nearby municipality, your council elections are only seven months away, and it is time to consider who are the best candidates for this four year commitment to represent you. What will the makeup of council look like in your area next fall?

Elizabeth Thompson, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Temple City Star