Municipal office seekers in limbo awaiting new election date
Pandemic scrubbed municipal votes scheduled for May 11
Monday was supposed to be when voters in municipalities across New Brunswick went to the polls to choose who would represent them for the next four years.
Instead, the election has been delayed up to a year because of the pandemic. Later this month, municipal councils will start the fifth year of a four year mandate.
Candidates who had already started door-knocking or holding events are now waiting, uncertain when ballots will be cast.
"It's tough not knowing when we can resume (campaigning), when the next wave may or may not hit, it's tough not knowing anything," said Chad Peters, who had held a news conference in January to announce he was running to be mayor of Moncton.
"It really throws you off your groove for a little bit," said Erik Gingles, who had paid for a billboard to announce his bid to be Moncton's mayor.
Incumbent Moncton Mayor Dawn Arnold said on Facebook she felt "mixed emotions" about the day that was supposed to see votes cast.
Arnold wrote it has been strange seeing calendar reminders for campaign events in recent weeks that never happened.
Legislation passed in March delayed the vote candidates had spent months anticipating and preparing for.
The bill allows the minister of local government to reschedule the votes as late as May 10, 2021.
Kim Poffenroth, the chief electoral officer for Elections New Brunswick's, said the organization has not yet been told when the elections will take place.
It will need at least four months notice to prepare and provide time for people to file nomination papers. It also allows time to rent space for polling stations and returning offices, hire staff and prepare things like advertisements with information about the election.
Poffenroth said one factor that could affect the date is municipal budgets, which are prepared in the fall and usually approved in December.
For now, campaigning has largely halted given the ongoing pandemic and the possibility it could be a year before votes are cast.
"I don't think there's an appetite for any sort of campaigning," Peters said. "I think everybody, myself included, we've all been kind of locked in the house and trying to figure out how this was going to play out."
Tammy Rampersaud, a councillor in Riverview, had announced she would run for mayor and said the announcement of the delay came just before she was going to buy campaign signs that included the date of the election.
"So I'm thankful for the decision being made when it was because that helped financially for me," Rampersaud said.
Rampersaud is challenging incumbent Riverview Mayor Ann Seamans. The delay prolongs that by up to year, and both remain on council.
"I am putting my name forward and she is aware of that, and so it is a little bit awkward, right?" Rampersaud said, adding she greatly respects Seamans and thinks council works well as a team, but they don't always agree on decisions.
For those who aren't already on council, making the decision to run often means stepping back from their regular work.
For Peters and Gingles, that meant less attention on their respective businesses. Now, that's reversed until they have a better idea when the vote will take place.
Gingles said he hoped the delay could prompt a look at switching to mail-in voting.
However, Poffenroth said that would require significantly more resources, including printing and mailing thousands of ballots to electors in each municipality and more machines used to scan the ballots on election day.
"It's not something we feel comfortable in implementing for a fall election," Poffenroth said.
She said they are planning ways to ensure voting is safe for voters and poll workers, such as disposable gloves, face masks and hand sanitizer.