Cost of byelections equal to price of average house: Elections Nova Scotia

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WATCH: On average Nova Scotia taxpayers are on the hook for $200,000 every time an MLA resigns their seat. Jeremy Keefe reports – Aug 26, 2019

Within the next few weeks, it’s expected that six ridings will have seen byelections during the current term of the Nova Scotia Legislature, which is only just about halfway completed.

Contrast that with the previous term, between 2013 and 2017, when only four byelections were held and you’ll see that they are increasing in frequency — a reality that might frustrate some as Elections Nova Scotia estimates the cost of each at around $200,000.

READ MORE: Nova Scotians head to the polls for 3 separate byelections on Sept. 3

“The costs associated with the byelection are primarily infrastructure and staffing costs,” explained Elections Nova Scotia’s Director of Policy and Communications, Naomi Shelton. “Also infrastructure costs such as furniture rentals, leases on spaces for polling locations.”

Between 2000 and 2010, 11 ridings were contested in byelections.

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Since June 2018, Cumberland South and Sackville Cobequid saw their elected representatives step down from their roles, forcing byelections.

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On September 3, voters in three more ridings, Argyle-Barrington, Northside-Westmount and Sydney River-Mira-Louisbourg, will cast their ballots.

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Premier Stephen McNeil had stated that holding the long-anticipated byelections simultaneously would be advantageous, however ENS indicates the cost savings aren’t significant when they are lumped together.

“When you group byelections together you’re still going to have that…per-district cost,” Shelton explained. “There can be some incremental savings, a little bit of cost savings due to scale in terms of our headquarters costs in supporting the byelection. Our printing, our advertising, our staffing time here at headquarters.”

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The June 19, 2018 Cumberland South byelection ran a total cost of $146,530.66

Prior to that, on August 30, 2016, taxpayers were on the hook for $256,325.000 when Halifax Needham held one, a price just over the average cost of a home in Nova Scotia at $249,000.

READ MORE: HRM councillor Steve Craig unofficially wins Sackville-Cobequid byelection for the PCs

The final tally for the most recent byelection is still being worked out and the upcoming spate of contests will require approximately six months before their numbers are in.

The last time multiple byelections were held at the same time might work as an indicator of things to come though.

The total cost for the July 14, 2015 byelections in Cape Breton Centre, Dartmouth South and Sydney-Whitney Pier was $636,752.88.

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