Port Clements’ outgoing mayor and council were asked to apologize to village staff at their final public meeting following a dust-up over election rules.
Only one councillor, Brigid Cumming, offered an apology. It was requested by Port Clements resident Teri Kish, who has since been elected councillor.
The issue began in September, when acting mayor Urs Thomas and prospective councillor candidate Gloria O’Brien failed to file proper nomination packages on time.
In Thomas’ case, he asked a friend to file his nomination papers 90 minutes before the Sept. 14 deadline while he was on a bus from Whistler to Vancouver.
Thomas had been on the fence about running again, but said he was inspired after representing the village at the Union of B.C. Municipalities Conference in Whistler.
But because Thomas did not have a commissioner or the chief election officer legally witness his solemn declarations, village staff back in Port Clements could not accept his nomination. All prospective candidates are required to make solemn declarations that they have provided true information, they fully intend to join council if elected, they are qualified to run, and they understand the campaign finance rules.
But that was news to Urs Thomas.
“Needless to say, I was a bit shocked and surprised as this was my fourth election and I had never signed the documents in front of an election officer or commissioner the previous three times,” Thomas wrote in a report to village residents.
In O’Brien’s case, she found out too late that one of her two nominees can’t vote in Port Clements elections, which made him ineligible to nominate her.
At the Oct. 1 Port council meeting, then Councillor Charleen O’Brien-Anderson said she heard people in town saying “shifty” things happened during the nomination process, and noted it was the first time the current village staff had handled a local election.
“I think in afterthought, perhaps a period of re-nomination should have happened to take away all doubt from our residents in town that anything nefarious was going on,” O’Brien-Anderson said.
Under B.C.’s local election rules, the nomination period can only be extended if there aren’t enough candidates running for the number of seats — something that happened in Masset this year, but not in Port Clements.
Ruby Decock, the chief administrative officer and chief election officer for Port Clements, said there would have been time to fix all the problems if the everyone had just filed earlier.
Everyone had 10 days to file, Decock said, and a week after that to withdraw. Still, three candidates filed their nomination papers just an hour before the Sept. 14 deadline, when it was too late for them to get a new nominator if they needed one, or to find a legal witness for solemn declarations if they were out of town.
“It was a real stressful time for myself and the deputy clerk,” Decock said, noting that she tried to witness Thomas’ declarations over the phone, but was told by the B.C. attorney general’s office that wasn’t possible.
“I’m sorry,” she said. “I tried, but I can’t bend the rules.”
Doug Daugert, who was acclaimed as mayor of Port Clements, said it was too bad Urs Thomas was unable to run.
“I was hoping Mayor Thomas would run, because then the people would have a choice in Port Clements, which is a good thing,” he said.
“And if I lost, I would be free with no guilty conscience!’
Anyone who would like to run in Port Clements’ next general election can file their nomination package starting at 9 a.m. on Tuesday, Sept. 30, 2022.