Fire Board Election on September 25 to re-do April 24 election declared ‘of no effect’ by BC Supreme Court

Derek Kilbourn

Sounder News

Thursday, September 19 2019

For the third time this year, Gabriola property owners will be able to gather and vote for who they believe should be Trustees on the Gabriola Fire Protection Improvement District Board.

The Special Meeting and Election will take place a week from now, on September 25, at 7:00 p.m. at the Albert Reed Memorial Fire Hall on Church Street.

This election comes as a result of a Supreme Court decision which declared the April 24, 2019 election of the Fire District Board to be “of no effect.”

BC Supreme Court Justice Murray B. Blok made the decision in the Nanaimo Courthouse on July 2, 2019.

This legally nullified the election held during the April 24 Annual General Meeting of the Fire District.

Gabriola property owners Drew Stanliand, April Vannini and Ivan Bulic petitioned the court after being present at the April 24 election - citing numerous ways in which the Fire Board had failed to ensure only qualified and eligible voters cast ballots in the election for new Trustees as set out by the Local Government Act.

The April 24 election saw 231 registered landowners sign up as voters. 

In 2018, there were 17.

Judge Blok’s original decision had been to order a new election for August 21, but as the Judge noted, a number of potential voters might have been absent during that part of the summer, so he had ordered the Fire District to make provision for absentee ballots.

However, as the Fire District bylaws require nominations be accepted from the floor on the date of the election, absentee ballots were not seen as viable.

The Judge later ordered the election moved to September 25 to allow for more property owners to be back on Gabriola to vote.

At the same time that the petition was moving forward to the court decision, the Fire Board had held regular meetings, and had put forward a number of ways in which it could improve how elections are held.

Shortly after the April 24 election, Trustee John Hudson gave notice that he was stepping down from the Fire Board.

A by-election was held on Wednesday, June 26, in which Diana Moher was elected to the position of Fire Trustee, to serve out the remainder of Hudson’s term, which will end in April 2020: 140 votes were cast with Moher receiving 74 of them.

The by-election implemented a number of the changes recommended by the Fire Board, including the hiring of a Returning Officer and the use of private booths for people to mark their votes.

Paula Mallinson, Corporate Officer for the Fire District, confirmed the same voting processes used in the by-election will be used next week for the September 25 election. According to the Fire District bylaws, to be eligible to vote, or to be a candidate for Trustee, a person must be eighteen years of age, a Canadian citizen, an owner of land in the improvement district, and a BC resident for the six months prior to the election. Those wishing to run for the Trustee position can be nominated by email (send the email to gabfire@shaw.ca), but those nominated must attend the election to accept their nomination and be present for the vote. Nominations are not restricted to those who ran April 24.

As of press time, only one person, Penelope Bahr, had confirmed she would be accepting a nomination to run for Fire Trustee.