Ministry says Fire Board holds referendum responsibilities

Derek Kilbourn

Monday, February 6 2012

The Ratepayers Association of Gabriola has been given the answer of “it’s up to the Board of Trustees” as the answer to many of the Ratepayers’ questions regarding the upcoming referendum on the proposed Fire Hall borrowing bylaw.
Ratepayers President Erik Andersen had written to Ida Chong, Minister of Community, Sport and Cultural Development to request the province intervene with regard to the referendum.
Don Sutherland, a director with the Ministry’s local government division replied on behalf of the Minister, saying, “the role of the Ministry is to provide general information about the local government legislation and to identify options for local governments and citizens to consider for resolving their issues or concerns. 
“The Ministry has established guidelines in the Improvement District Manual for an improvement district to conduct their referendum but each board of trustees has the ability to decide how some aspects of the vote will be conducted.”
Don clarified that, as he had written in December to an email from Erik, a decision to include mail ballot voting for the referendum needs to be made by the Fire Board.
Don said, “In general, mail ballot voting can be a positive way to increase voter turnout.  However, mail ballot voting takes a fair amount of administrative resources and expertise which some improvement districts do not possess.”
Erik had asked who is responsible for appointing scrutineers.
He was told, “it is the responsibility of the board of trustees to decide whether to invite individuals to volunteer for this role.”
In regard to other questions Erik had asked of the Minister, Don answered:
The wording of the referendum question that will be on the ballot is decided by the board of trustees so you will need to contact the District about this matter.
There is no requirement for an improvement district to make a voter’s list available for public inspection. The District’s returning officer will confirm the eligibility of electors before they are given a ballot.
There is no requirement for an improvement district to give notice about the board’s choice of returning officer.
The Inspector of Municipalities will consider all aspects of the referendum process and the result of the vote before a decision is made whether to approve the District’s borrowing bylaw.
An elector must be present at the voting place in order to vote. (eligible voters who will be absent on both March dates may not appoint a legal representative to tender their vote even if an affidavit accompanies their letter of instruction.)