Municipal elections at standstill in N.B. amid COVID-19

September marks six months since the province of New Brunswick postponed municipal elections due to the COVID-19 pandemic. However, with councils working past their four-year-terms, complications are beginning to arise.

Union of the Municipalities of New Brunswick executive director, Margot Cragg, says councils are doing more than originally expected.

"For everyone who is currently on municipal council, they are serving a fifth year of a four-year mandate," says Cragg. "So, they are now in overtime at this point."

In March, legislation was passed to delay municipal elections, which were scheduled to take place on May 11 because of COVID-19 concerns. The province has said they expect municipal elections will be held May 2021 or earlier, depending on how quickly the outbreak subsides.

However, without an exact date established, UMNB says it has seen a string of resignations among councils – for a variety of reasons.

"What that means for municipalities, is that, in some cases, the municipalities are playing with a shorter and shorter bench," says Cragg. "And that's more workload that gets put on the folks around the council table."

Earlier in September, New Brunswickers went to the polls in the country's first provincial election during the pandemic. Some municipal councillors were elected as MLAs and will be serving in the legislature –leaving their council seats vacant.

In July, a supervisor was appointed for Campobello Island after council lost quorum – the minimum number of people needed to do business.

Deputy Mayor for St. Andrews, Brad Henderson, believes if a provincial election can be held, municipal elections can be held as well.

"A lot can happen between now and May. We could have another outbreak with the pandemic," says Henderson. "If they delay it any further, how many other municipalities are going to lose quorum and then see basically an appointed official that lives outside our community tell our community how to proceed?"

In March, Saint John Mayor Don Darling announced he would not be seeking a second term. However, in an email to CTV News, he says while he appreciates some municipalities have a shortage of councillors, it's not a good enough reason to rush an election and believes it should be confirmed for May 2021 to allow voters time to prepare.

Meanwhile, as for whether a date has been set or if conversations concerning elections are underway, New Brunswick's Department of Environment and Local Government says, currently, there is no update.

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