Majority of N.B. local government races uncontested, empty one week from candidate deadline

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Local government election nominations closing soon in New Brunswick
WATCH: With just over a week to go before nominations for local government elections close, there are only a few dozen contested races. Officials expect those numbers to climb but say time is running out to get involved. Silas Brown reports – Oct 20, 2022

Most positions up for grabs in local government elections next month are either uncontested or don’t have a single candidate just eight days from the deadline.

New Brunswickers in all but 18 municipalities will head to the polls on Nov. 28 to elect mayors and councillors following the creation of a number of new municipal entities. As of Thursday afternoon there were 35 contested positions, out of a total of 467. More than 200 races didn’t have a single candidate, while 185 only had one.

Chief electoral officer Kim Poffenroth says she expects the number of candidates to climb significantly by next Friday’s deadline, noting that the number of contested races was 30 this morning.

“Those numbers change on an hourly basis, but we would always like to see more people getting involved in a municipal position,” she said.

The issue of attracting candidates is not new. In local government elections held in the spring of 2021, over 50 positions saw candidates acclaimed. One of the reasons given by the government when it slashed the number of municipal entities from 340 to 90 was the lack of willing candidates.

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Dan Murphy, the executive director of the New Brunswick Union of Municipalities, says he too expects the number of candidates to climb, but has been concerned by the chronic lack of candidates in the past.

“The more competition there in the these races, the better it is for voter turnout,” he said.

Since the elections are taking place in municipalities that have either significantly changed or are brand new, Murphy says there is an added level of importance.

“There’s going to be some big decisions to come in the year ahead, in the next mandate really,” he said.

“We’re not through local governance reform, really we’re just starting. so the next four years are going to be very important in the foundations of a lot of communities.”

Municipalities will have to navigate expanded regional service commissions, which will now be responsible for tourism marketing, economic development, recreational facility cost sharing and regional transportation. It’s also expected that further reforms to the property tax system will be introduced in 2024.

That’s why it’s important to see contested races offering differing visions, hopefully attracting more than the 30 per cent of eligible voters who cast a ballot in 2021, Murphy says.

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But a blunder from Elections NB has created additional confusion. Letters sent out with voting information earlier this month told some New Brunswickers that their community would not be having an election, while others said the opposite. About three quarters of eligible voters got the wrong info.

Poffenroth says Elections NB is urging people to check online to see if their community is having an election or not.

“Unfortunately with that error, not everyone received the incorrect information, so just because you received something doesn’t mean it’s wrong,” she said.

The error happened when the two documents were switched and no one caught the error on the proof before they were printed. Poffenroth says it’s too late to send out new information, but voters should expect to receive their voter information card in the mail soon.

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