No Burnaby council byelections likely until spring, Hurley says

Byelections to fill two vacant seats in Burnaby’s city council likely won’t take place until spring, according to Mayor Mike Hurley.

At the end of July, the province released guidelines for holding byelections during the pandemic, something municipalities were awaiting before engaging in the byelection process. But when the guidelines came out, Hurley said they were still too vague, and city officials were working with Elections B.C. to come up with more specific guidelines.

“And then, of course, they announced the provincial election, so that kind of put it back,” Hurley said. “It looks like ours will be sometime in the spring, now.”

The two council seats have been vacant since longtime councillors Nick Volkow and Paul McDonell died within a few weeks of each other this summer.

A spring election would leave the city with their seats unfilled for at least nine months, but Hurley said he doesn’t see a rush to fill the vacancies. Seven of nine councillors are still active, and the city’s quorum – the bare minimum number of councillors required to run a meeting – is five, leaving the city with some breathing room for other temporary vacancies, such as illness.

“Council’s working – it’s not like we’re having stalemates,” he said. “We do have well over the quorum, and the decisions are getting made. So we’ll keep the business of the city running, and when we’re able to run a byelection, certainly that will get done.”

Hurley similarly said he hasn’t heard from anyone itching to fill those seats.

“People are even surprised there is an election going (on) at all, right now,” he said.

In fact, the current provincial election, Hurley said, could offer the city a lesson on how to – or not to – hold a vote during the pandemic, including determining best practices to maintain physical distancing while making voting accessible.

“The important thing is to keep people safe,” Hurley said.

City staff are still working with Elections B.C., he added, but the conversation now is more about finding venues for voting.

Follow Dustin on Twitter at @dustinrgodfrey

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