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EDITORIAL: Okotoks byelection exemption makes sense

Minister made right call in allowing Town of Okotoks not to hold byelection to fill vacant council seat.
Minister of Transportation Ric McIver addressed the crowd at Genia Leskiw’s fundraising event, held at the RCMP Hall in Glendon last Wednesday.
Municipal Affairs Minister Ric McIver has exempted the Town of Okotoks from holding a byelection.

Who says the provincial government can’t play nice with local politicians? 

OK, so a lot of local politicians are saying exactly that thanks to the UCP government flexing its muscles through Bill 20 and other legislative efforts, but Okotoks council has been given reason to be thankful to Danielle Smith and Co. 

Their gratitude should go specifically to Municipal Affairs Minister Ric McIver, who provided a ministerial order last week that exempts the Town of Okotoks from holding a byelection to fill a vacant council seat. 

Coun. Cheryl Actemichuk resigned back in March, 19 months before the next general election, which is scheduled for October of next year. Because the Municipal Government Act stipulates that a byelection is needed if a council seat is vacated more than 18 months before a general election, Okotoks required approval from the minister not to hold the vote. 

It was reasoned, and rightly so, to McIver that council could make do with one less member, as it had during Actemichuk’s temporary leave of absence, rather than expending tax dollars to hold a byelection. He agreed and issued the order, which is typically provided when a vacancy occurs close to that 18-month threshold. 

It happens routinely enough that you wonder if the act should be amended to increase the time a local council can run at less than full strength. Given the time it takes to set an election date, hold a campaign and get the winner up to speed, it’s often decided that it’s not worth conducting a byelection when the victor is in the seat for only about a year, the last couple of months of which are consumed by yet another campaign. 

The rationale used for requesting, and granting, the exemptions is so commonplace that it would only make sense to amend the act and then actually stick to the legislation. 

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