Although another municipal election in Alberta is more than year away, Vauxhall town council was preparing for that event through contemplation of a structural change to reduce council from seven to five representatives.
“Our term is coming up in just over a year, administration just thought maybe we might want to take a glimpse at this again, because we don’t know how many of us are thinking of continuing, and in the past there have been problems with getting enough people to run,” said Mayor Margaret Plumtree, speaking at council’s June 20 regular meeting.
“I just wanted to see what your thoughts are, if you’re still thinking seven is a good number and works well for us, or if you think there should be less, from seven to five.”
During the 2010 municipal election, Vauxhall attracted provincial media attention when a lack of candidates prompted consideration of some obscure contingencies under the Local Authorities Election Act and Municipal Government Act.
“I think it should remain at seven,” said Coun. Martin Kondor.
In 2010, at the eleventh hour the municipality received an adequate number of candidates for election, but not before some embarrassing headlines had graced newspapers across the province. Should the same issue occur again, the returning officer would accept nominations on each following day until an adequate number of councillors have volunteered their names.
“If you look at the number of councillors per capita, we’ve got a lot of councillors,” said Coun. Richard Phillips.
“But at the same time, if you look at the number of committees and so on that need to be filled, if you had five, you’d be loading up pretty good.”
Plumtree agreed with Phillips’ assessment, suggesting limiting the number of councillors would put undue burdens on a council of five made up predominantly of full-time employees.
“That was kind of my thoughts as I was discussing it with administration, is that if you’ve got council that’s part time working, or not working, then you’d have time, and five would probably be plenty. But this council’s almost all full time, how do you fit in all those committees? Then you’re looking at possibly having to drop committees, too.”
Phillips argued reducing the number of council representatives would prove to be a discouragement for citizens contemplating elected office in the near future.
“It would be a discouragement to full time workers to be on council.”
The only municipality in Vauxhall’s immediate vicinity that currently operates under a five council member structure rather than seven is the Village of Barnwell.
Vauxhall town council discussed the issue but did not make a resolution regarding council’s size, essentially confirming the status quo will remain in place for the immediate future.