Victoria city staff say Dec. 12 byelection feasible; councillors to consider this week

City of Victoria voters could be going to the polls on Dec. 12 to fill a vacant seat if council member support holding a byelection on that date.

It would be feasible to hold a Dec. 12 vote provided additional money is provided and COVID-19 safety plans are ­implemented, city clerk Chris Coates and deputy city manager Susanne Thompson said in a report going to council members on Thursday.

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A byelection to fill the seat left vacant by Laurel Collins had been scheduled for April 4, but it was called off because of the ­pandemic.

Collins quit council after winning a federal seat for the NDP last year.

The city has already spent $90,000 on the April byelection. Another $80,000 remains in the original budget.

Although exact costs are not known at this time, staff ­recommend that council members approve another $350,000 from the city’s financial stability reserve fund to cover election costs.

Extra money would be required for safety plans and related ­implementation costs, bringing in additional staff, ­adding more voting machines, ­lining up more ­venues, buying personal ­protective equipment and for ­sanitation supplies, the report says.

“With the appropriate safety precautions, staffing, legislative changes and budget, it is possible to address public health concerns related to voting,” Coates and Thompson said in their report.

New protocols would include reducing touch points, increasing hours at voting locations in order to prevent crowds, and increasing mail ballots.

These plans are in the works. WorkSafe B.C. requires each ­location to have its own plan.

A ministerial order would be needed for the Dec. 12 date.

Although previously chosen voting venues are still available, city staff are now looking for additional, larger spaces able to hold more people, given the ­likelihood of poor weather at the time.

Victoria City Hall would serve as ­election headquarters and as a v­oting location for general voting and eight days of advance voting.

A plan to replace the ­heating, ventilation and air conditioning system at city hall in ­December would have to be delayed.

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