Tofino is preparing to hold a municipal byelection in March to elect a new mayor and two new councillors. (Westerly file photo)

Tofino is preparing to hold a municipal byelection in March to elect a new mayor and two new councillors. (Westerly file photo)

Tofino to ask for leeway in mail-in voting restrictions for March byelection

District wants to expand mail-in voting due to COVID-19.

MLA Josie Osborne’s first call as B.C.’s newly appointed Minister of Municipal Affairs might come from her own community.

Tofino is set to ask the province for some leeway around mail-in voting in the municipal byelection it needs to hold to replace its now former mayor.

Osborne took a leave of absence from the position when she was named the NDP’s candidate for the Mid Island – Pacific Rim riding and she officially resigned from the position after being elected to the provincial government on Oct. 24. She was named to the Municipal Affairs cabinet position on Nov. 26.

READ MORE: Mid Island-Pacific Rim MLA Josie Osborne named minister of municipal affairs

Tofino’s manager of corporate services Elyse Goatcher-Bergmann told the Westerly News that the district expects to hold the byelection in March and she has reached out to Ministry of Municipal Affairs to ask for an order that would allow Tofino to do “a few things that we wouldn’t normally be able to do.”

“That order is because of COVID-19 and some changes that we want to make to the election process to make things safe and really easy and accessible for people,” Goatcher-Bergmann said.

“Tofino recently amended our bylaw to allow mail-in ballots, but we’re still sort of hamstrung by the Local Government Act, which really limits who can vote by mail. Right now, it’s only those people who expect to be outside the municipality on general voting day or someone who has an illness or disability that prevents them coming to the voting place. So, it’s a pretty specific group of people that can vote by mail as the legislation stands, but of course now we’re in a global pandemic so we want to expand that eligibility to anyone who wants to vote by mail.”

She added that the town’s bylaw stipulates that mail-in ballots must be received two days prior to voting day, but the district is hoping to change that as well.

“We’re going to ask that they’re submitted by general voting day, but that’s something we have to ask the ministry about as well because our bylaw actually says they have to be submitted two days prior to voting day, but we want to make it really simple for folks,” she said.

The byelection will also include two councillor positions as councillors Dan Law and Andrea McQuade have both confirmed they will be running for mayor and both must resign their current seat in order to pursue the mayor’s spot.

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