Fixed election dates set for Nunavut municipal councils, DEAs
“Running an election every year was draining resources”
Last June, Nunavut MLAs quietly passed a bill that will change the way elections for municipal councils and district education authorities are held in Nunavut.
Bill 49, an Act to Provide for Elections for Municipal Councils and District Education Authorities, sets fixed election dates for hamlets, DEA boards and the territory’s French-language school board, the Commission scolaire francophone du Nunavut.
Starting in 2019, all school authorities and municipalities, including Iqaluit, will hold elections on the same day: the fourth Monday of October.
The adoption of Bill 49 repeals the Local Authorities Election Act and, at the same time, hands oversight of the process over to the territory’s electoral body, Elections Nunavut.
The process to centralize elections started over a decade ago, launched by the Legislative Assembly, said Election Nunavut’s current chief elector officer Dustin Fredlund.
“What we’ve heard—and obviously it wasn’t unanimous—there was strong support for [elected municipal officials to have] four-year terms,” said Fredlund, who joined Elections Nunavut last fall.
“Running an election every year was draining resources and just unrealistic,” he said.
“Mayors, councillors and DEA board members are valuable resources in Nunavut communities, so we think this will make for smoother and more efficient elections.”
The goal is to harmonize rules with those of territorial elections, as much as possible, he said.
That means DEA and municipal candidates, like MLAs, will run to serve for four-year terms, rather than staggered, two-year terms.
Bill 49 also changes the residency rule for voters and candidates: they are no longer required to be a resident of the community in which they run for at least 12 months prior to the election, although they must have been a resident of Nunavut for that long.
And municipal employees and justices of the peace can now apply to get leave to run for elections.
Elections Nunavut will oversee the entire process but Fredlund notes that communities will continue to manage the logistics of an election, such as hiring elections staff and hosting the polling stations.
Now, Elections Nunavut will take over the institutional memory, manage the voter registration database and produce voter lists and ballots.
“The rules will be different but we’re confident that our current role facilitating territorial elections will convey into municipal elections,” Fredlund said.
But how the new legislation will affect Elections Nunavut’s Rankin Inlet office and day-to-day operations remains to be seen.
“We’ve never had the opportunity to see how this is done,” he said.
Currently, the Rankin Inlet office is staffed by Fredlund and four full-time employees.
For the upcoming Oct. 30 territorial election alone, Elections Nunavut will hire 160 temporary positions, most of them returning officers and poll clerks for each community.
For now, the role of the organization is to get the details of the new legislation out, Fredlund said. Elections Nunavut is in the process of developing guidebooks to distribute to community organizations.
“This is our full-time job, to promote elections, so this is one way to use the resources we already have to do this,” he said. “It’s been a one-stop shop for organizations to come to, to get that information.”
Under the new legislation, 2018 will be considered a transition year; there will be no elections held next year.
That means some municipal terms will be cut short, and other extended, which Fredlund acknowledges might be confusing.
That will impact the length of some municipal terms, he explained: municipal councillors who hold office on Oct. 1, 2018 will have their terms automatically extended or shortened, depending on when their term ends.
Anyone who is elected in 2017 who has a term ending past Oct. 29, 2019 will see their term end that day (see embedded document below.)
You can read more details of the new legislation at Elections Nunavut’s website.
The first fixed elections are set to take place Oct. 28, 2019.
“Change is sometimes difficult, but we’re hoping the transition is as smooth as possible and will benefit our electoral system,” Fredlund said.
Elections Nunavut: changes to municipal elections in Nunavut by NunatsiaqNews on Scribd