Qualicum Beach councillor returns from medical leave of absence

Qualicum Beach Coun. Robert Filmer has returned to his seat at the council table following a two-month medical leave of absence.

His return means that the byelection to replace Adam Walker, elected as an NDP MLA last year, can now be held.

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Council members decided to wait until Filmer’s leave, which started in mid-December, was over to set a date for the byelection. They will be asking the province to approve May 15 as the election date.

Filmer took part in the council meeting Wednesday and participated in a Feb. 8 in-camera meeting regarding a report commissioned by the town to investigate nine complaints he made about conduct at city hall.

The consultant’s report into Filmer’s concerns said it found no evidence of discrimination, bullying or harassment. Filmer posted on social media that his “fellow councillors gave a pattern of facts that does not square with my notes or memory.”

On Wednesday, council agreed that corporate administrator Heather Svensen would be appointed chief election officer. The town has budgeted $60,000 for the byelection.

Coun. Teunis Westbroek recommended putting a question on the ballot asking citizens if they favoured increasing the number of councillors to six from four. The motion failed on a tied vote.

The town is dealing with a growing number of complex issues, Westbroek said, arguing that a larger council would result in better communication, more people available to serve on committees and attend functions, and improved debate.

Filmer supported Westbroek, saying Qualicum Beach residents are engaged. Communities smaller than Qualicum Beach have larger councils, he said.

Coun. Scott Harrison was opposed, noting that the same question had failed when asked at previous elections. He also noted that byelections typically have lower turnouts.

Mayor Brian Wiese said he had never heard of size of the council being an issue over the past two months. During that time, Wiese, Westbroek and Harrison made up a three-member council. “Bigger is not always better,” Wiese said, who was also opposed.

If the question was going to be asked again, he said he would prefer it during a general election.

cjwilson@timescolonist.com

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