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By-elections

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Vacancies

A vacancy occurs on a municipal council or a school board when a sitting member resigns, dies or becomes ineligible. The court can also declare a seat vacant.

After the seat has been declared vacant by a council or the court, the council has 60 days to decide whether to fill the vacancy by appointment or by holding a by-election. A school board has 90 days to decide whether to fill the vacancy by appointment or by holding a by-election.

A vacancy on a council must be filled unless the vacancy occurs within 90 days before voting day in the next general election. A vacancy on a school board must be filled unless the vacancy occurs within one month before voting day in the next general election.

Appointment

If a council or board decides to fill a vacancy by appointment, they must appoint a person who is eligible to serve on the council or board and who is willing to accept the appointment.

The legislation does not set out any other criteria. It is up to the council or board to determine how they will decide who to appoint. Different approaches include:
  • appointing the candidate who came second in the general election
  • inviting interested persons to apply for the position
  • offering the appointment to a member of the community
Sometimes councils or boards want to put additional restrictions on appointees, such as requiring that an appointee agree not to run in the next general election. While a council or board may set this as a condition for appointment, there is nothing in provincial legislation that would prevent someone who was appointed from running in the next election.

By-election for office

Once the council or school board has decided to hold a by-election, the clerk is in charge of conducting it. The council or board does not decide when nomination day or voting day will be. These dates are determined by the clerk.

Nominations open when the council has passed the bylaw ordering the by-election, or when the school board has passed a resolution ordering the by-election and sent it to the clerk who will conduct it. Nominations close at 2 p.m. on nomination day.

The clerk must set nomination day within 60 days after the by-election was ordered by council, the board or the court.

Voting day will be 45 days after nomination day.

By-election for a question on the ballot

If a council or board wants to put a question on the ballot, they do not have to wait until the next general election to do so. They could hold a by-election to allow electors to vote on the question.

The process and the timeline for questions on the ballot still apply, including the appeal period for the wording of the question. Voting day for a by-election to put a question on the ballot must be at least 180 days after the bylaw or resolution to hold a by-election has been passed.