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Matheson byelection to cost at least $10K, will impact 2024 budget

That total doesn't include hiring staff or costs associated with voting help centres, says clerk
Black River-Matheson held its first regular council meeting on May 13 with appointee Kathy Horgan.

BLACK RIVER-MATHESON - The forced byelection in Matheson is going to impact the 2024 budget. 

Yesterday (May 13), Black River-Matheson had its first meeting to deal with township business since February. While the council members were ousted last month, provincial appointee Kathy Horgan is making council decisions until new members are elected in August.

Clerk-treasurer Cassandra Child puts the cost of the byelection at $10,000 so far. That does not include the cost of the hiring of staff and any other costs that might be incurred to ensure help centres are functioning properly.

Of the known cost right now, about $7,300 is for Intelivote Systems Inc., a Nova Scotia-based company that specializes in eVoting. Horgan approved that contract at the meeting. 

The program to manage the electors list is expected to have a price tag of $3,000.

Child said residents should expect to see a tax levy increase to help cover the cost of the byelection.

“As of right now, the cost to hire and tele-vote is actually on a per-elector basis, and we’ll use the electors from the last election that took place. So we're looking at the 2022 elections and the illegible electors back in 2022, said Child.

In addition to telephone and internet voting options, Horgan asked if in-person voting will also be available and if there is a process established for residents who might not have internet access or need help.

Under the Elections Act, Child said the township is required to have an accessibility protocol.

“Part of our accessibility protocol is we are going to have help stations set up for voters who are not comfortable, not familiar, or don't have access to a telephone or a computer to come to these help centres at our buildings that are accessible and get assistance to place their vote,” she said.

Using telephone and internet voting options is an inclusive experience, Child added.

“Because, for one, we have property owners not just in Black River-Matheson, but everywhere else. And under the Elections Act, they have the right to vote. We are also in a mining area, so, at times, depending on the date, some of those electors are not here, but through telephone and internet voting, they can still place their ballots,” she said.

“And of course, there's the argument when we did have paper ballots, that some residents, seniors and non-seniors, didn't have the transportation to get to polling stations. So this eliminates that.”

Help centres will be set up at the town’s municipal office, at its arena and the Rosedale Centre, which is the long-term care wing at Bingham Memorial Hospital.

“If for whatever reason nobody can make it to a help centre, there will be a voter helpline that the voter can use in the comfort of their home for somebody to help them step-by-step to place their vote,” said Child.

The town’s voting policies and procedures will be made available shortly to residents on the township website and copies will be available at the township office, Child said.

The May 13 meeting was the town's first regular council meeting since February. Horgan, Child, CAO Chris Wray and township staffer James Mousseau were in attendance. 

On April 29, the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing declared all of the Matheson council seats vacant after council failed to meet quorum for meetings for 60 days. The little-used section of the Municipal Act hasn't been exercised since it took effect in the early 2000s.

SEE: Matheson council kicked out of office, here's what we know so far
RELATED: Matheson's heading to the polls, byelection set for Aug. 12

In her role, Horgan will report to the minister on the 15th and 30th of each month. The minister will post all reports from the appointee on the township’s website.

Residents are heading to the polls on Aug. 12, 2024. The nomination period is from June 1 to 2 p.m. on June 28. Advance voting is Aug. 1-11. On election day, the polls are open from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.

Seven council members will be elected — one mayor and one councillor in each of the six wards. 

In the last election in 2022, all but one of the council positions were acclaimed. With people only voting for one ward councillor, the voter turnout was a dismal 5.95 per cent — with 150 of the eligible 2,605 voters casting a ballot.

Marissa Lentz, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

About the Author: Marissa Lentz, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Marissa Lentz covers civic issues along the Highway 11 corridor under the Local Journalism Initiative, which is funded by the Government of Canada
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