By Trevor Busch
Monday’s nomination day for the Oct. 16 municipal election has come and passed for the Town of Vauxhall, and the new council has come up significantly short of its required seven members.
On Sept. 18, only five incumbents put their names forward for re-election, leaving two positions vacant for town council. Currently, incumbents Margaret Plumtree, Richard Phillips, Linda English, Marilyn Forchuk and Kim Cawley have thrown their hats back into the ring.
“Martin Kondor is not coming back, he’s decided that, and Christy Sorenson — they didn’t put their nominations in, so we’re trying to get two at least,” said town returning officer Cris Burns.
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. The town is keeping nominations open for an extended period, but if no citizens put their names forward for the vacant positions this may require a ministerial decision.
“As far as I know, we have six days, so by Monday (Sept. 25), we’ll have to contact the minister (Municipal Affairs Minister Shaye Anderson) and see what happens there,” said Burns.
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.
“From what I understand, we wait — and they may make us wait longer, we’ve had a history of this happening in the past — but we may get ministerial approval to go down to five councillors rather than seven councillors,” continued Burns.
In June 2016 previous council had contemplated reducing the number of seats from seven to five, but ultimately declined to make the move, with several councilors suggesting limiting the number of seats would put undue burdens on a council of five made up predominantly of full-time employees.
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.
“We didn’t put that into play before, it has to be six months before nomination day to drop it down to five councillors. They looked at it, but decided to go with what they got,” said Burns.
Burns encouraged citizens to step forward to take on the role.
“Come down to the town office, pick up a package, and get their five signatures to qualify under the regulations within the Act (Local Authorities Election Act), and then they can come and put their nomination in. There’s no fee, it’s not like the big cities where you have to drop $100 or a $1000 or something like that. There’s no fee that way. I know there’s a lot of people that talk about politics, but only a handful that want to commit to it.”