Holding a by-election to fill mayor’s chair is crazy talk

Armchair Mayor
By Mel Rothenburger
December 3, 2016 - 5:00am Updated: December 3, 2016 - 9:40am

KAMLOOPS — Excuse the locker-room talk but this idea of holding a mayoral by-election is just nuts.

Here’s how the chain of events plays out, in simplified form. When the writ is dropped 28 days before Voting Day next May, Mayor Peter Milobar takes a leave so he can run full-time as a BC Liberal candidate (instead of what he’s currently doing, which is sort of half and half).

If he’s elected as an MLA on May 9, he then resigns as mayor. A mayorless Kamloops must decide what to do.

One option is for council to choose an interim mayor from among the remaining eight council members and carry on until the civic elections Oct. 20, 2018. (They used to be held in the middle of November but have been changed starting with the next election.)

Another is for council to call a by-election. There are differing views among councillors on which is the better course. Ken Christian, who would like to be mayor, is on record as not being thrilled about council picking an interim leader from within.

If he isn’t chosen interim mayor by his fellow councillors it might hurt his chances of getting the full-time gig in the next general election but he likely simply believes voters should decide who’s at the helm for that 18-month span, which could actually be more like 15 months by the time the by-election is held.

My city-dwelling friends are free to squander their tax dollars any way they wish, of course, but if I was in their shoes I’d be sending a strong message to City Hall to not even think about spending $120,000-$160,000 on a by-election just so somebody can run for a temporary job. (Referendum costs depend on how many polling stations there are, advance voting days etc.)

There are eight people sitting around the council table who are perfectly capable of holding down the spot until a general election, and everything will carry on seamlessly. (At this point I think it’s worthwhile reminding you of my modest proposal, which I wrote about back in March and July of 2014, to cut the number of councillors to six regardless.)

But if a by-election is called, and there’s at least one vacancy created on council because Christian leaves his councillor chair empty to run for mayor, there’s an additional seat that will need filling.

The scenario that makes sense is that Kevin Krueger then runs for Christian’s council seat while Christian tries for the mayoralty. Would Steven Puhallo, who was supported by Krueger in his attempt to win the BC Liberal nomination that Milobar took, also run for either mayor or council?

It gets even more complicated, of course, if more than one sitting councillor decides to go for the mayor’s job, which isn’t out of the realm of possibility. Either way, a by-election would cost a whack of dough for no gain. A much better strategy would be for council to quietly lobby among themselves and come up with someone from among their own ranks who has no interest in the mayor’s job in the long-term but who would be pleased to add “interim mayor” to their resume.

That could be somebody like Arjun Singh or Marg Spina. I throw those out there only because I’m not aware of either having an interest in the mayor’s position at this time. Dieter Dudy would be another possible compromise except that he did run for mayor previously and might be thinking of it again.

This would be superior, by the way, to rotating deputy mayors.

The advantage of a temporary mayor who wouldn’t run as mayor in a general election is that he or she would pose no long-term threat to a Ken Christian or a Tina Lange in 2018, so it removes most of the incentive for squandering tens of thousands of dollars on a by-election.

This advice from a country dweller is offered free of charge.