Coquitlam Council By-Election

There is an empty chair at Coquitlam City Council meetings these days, and there has been a lot of debate on what to do about it.

In November, Coquitlam Councillor Fin Donnelly swam up the river to Ottawa to become the new MP for New Westminster-Coquitlam. Since the last municipal election was in November 2008, it really isn’t feasible to leave Fin’s old seat open until the next municipal election in November of 2011. Now there are an even 8 people on council including Mayor Richard Stewart, and without anyone to break the tie in close votes, getting city business done becomes a bit of a pain.

That being said, the City is not exactly keen on spending the estimated $150,000-$200,000 it would take to run a by-election for the extra seat. Voter turnout for civic elections in BC is anemic at best, and with only a single seat on council on the ballot, if 5% of eligible voters turned up it would be a victory. In 2008 there were 78,755 eligible voters. 21.5% of the electorate showed up. So with roughly the same eligible voters and a 5% turnout, spending roughly $40 per vote might not be the best of plans.

The City went to the Province and asked if there were any better alternatives. Some of the options being considered are…

  • Leave the seat empty
  • Give the seat to the 9th place candidate in the 2008 election (Neal Nicholson, who has declared his intention to run in the by-election)
  • Have a Dance-off (OK, that’s my idea, but it seems more people are interested in voting on television talent contests than the much more important civic government)
  • The Province has now told Coquitlam Council that there may be some options in the legislation beyond forking over for a by-election. This will be discussed at the Monday, March 15th Coquitlam Council meeting before they make a final decision on what to do.

    If they do go ahead, a date of April 24th has been floated.

    What do you think? Should the city hold a by-election, leave the seat empty, or hold a Survivor-style tribal council? Let us know in the comments.

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    1. Thanks for doing your part to, hopefully, increase turnout at the eventual, likely by-election. As a potential appointee should some alternative be discovered by the Minister, I have to say I believe a by-election is the only democratic solution.
      The April 24 date mentioned is no longer an option. If Council acts on March 15, the election must be held on a Saturday within 80 days. There are other time constraints around notice and nomination periods, as well as reasonable campaign periods, which leave May 29 as the last available date. The Federation of Canadian Municipalities meets that weekend taking many Council and staff away. May 22 is on a long weekend. May 15 is a possibility.
      Neal Nicholson

    2. I have to say that I am with Neal. Yes by-elections are expensive and turnout is low, but that is beside the point. The issues have changed since November 2008, and the people deserve to vote based on the situation as it stands now, if we are to have a democratic council. And I know that I will certainly show up to have my say.

    3. In Retrospect The matter has been solved and we – as Citizens of Coquitlam – are better served by having had this Seat filled rather then having left it empty..!!!!!


    1. […] Donnelly won the federal byelection to become MP of Coquitlam-New Westminster last November. Mayor Richard Steward petitioned the province to allow them to appoint a new Councillor, as he felt the money for a byelection could be better […]