City staff endorse June 8 byelection to replace Ottawa councillor elected to Queen’s Park

Ottawa city council has deferred its decision on Cumberland Ward's vacant seat. Beatrice Britneff / Global News File

A City of Ottawa memo says staff support holding a byelection on June 8 to replace Ottawa city councillor Stephen Blais, who won the provincial byelection in Orléans on Thursday night, according unofficial results from Elections Ontario.

Holding a byelection in Cumberland, an east-end ward in Ottawa, later this year would cost $375,000, according to a memo the city clerk sent to councillors on Friday afternoon.

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Under provincial law, Ottawa city council has the option to appoint a replacement once Blais resigns — which would be faster and less costly. But city staff endorse holding a byelection in this case, given the anticipated vacancy in Cumberland Ward will come about less than two years into council’s four-year term.

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“… [A byelection] would provide residents with an opportunity to have direct input in selecting the person who will serve as their elected representative for more than half of the 2018-2022 Term of Council,” City Clerk Rick O’Connor wrote.

Staff will officially make the recommendation to hold a byelection in Cumberland Ward in a report to council at its next scheduled meeting on March 25, 2020, the clerk added.

Potential timeline for byelection period

When a councillor resigns, city council has to declare that seat vacant at its next meeting, according to the provincial rulebook.

Within 60 days of doing so, council has to either appoint a replacement or pass a bylaw kickstarting the byelection process, O’Connor said.

That means, should council declare the Cumberland seat vacant on March 25, it technically has until May 22 to make either call.

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If it chooses to go the way of a byelection, however, staff favour starting that process “immediately” and would recommend council pass a bylaw requiring the byelection on March 25 as well.

If that happens, O’Connor said he would prefer to conduct the byelection with the following dates:

  • March 25: Nomination period begins
  • April 24: Nomination period ends at 2 p.m.
  • May 29: Advance voting day
  • June 8: Voting day
  • June 9: Official results declared.

City staff also recommend delegating Cumberland Ward matters to someone else until the seat is filled, O’Connor’s memo said.

The estimated budget for the Cumberland byelection includes the costs for paying workers, printing ballots and renting vote tabulators, according to O’Connor.

The money would be taken from the tax stabilization reserve, the city’s “primary fund for municipal elections,” the city clerk wrote.

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Blais was first elected to Ottawa city council in 2010. Ahead of the byelection, the councillor stepped down from some leadership positions he held.

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Elections Ontario’s unofficial results for the pair of provincial byelections that took place in Ottawa on Thursday indicate Blais won the Orléans seat for the Ontario Liberals with 55 per cent of the vote.

The provincial Liberal party scored a second victory in neighbouring Ottawa-Vanier, with Elections Ontario reporting that Lucille Collard won about 52 per cent of the vote.

In a news release Friday, Elections Ontario said turnout among registered voters in Orléans was 23.5 per cent. Meanwhile, unofficial results show 19.9 per cent of registered voters in Ottawa-Vanier cast a ballot.

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