Penticton readies for municipal byelection

Penticton is readying for a byelection to replace Mayor Dan Ashton, who was elected as MLA for the Penticton riding on May 14.

Penticton city council is laying the groundwork for a byelection in the near future, making some “housekeeping” changes to the city’s election bylaw.

Acting Mayor Garry Litke said council has a couple of dates in mind for a fall byelection, partly driven by the annual Union of B.C. Municipalities conference on Sept. 16.

“Because of the importance of our hospital project, we feel it is very important to have strong mayor and council present at UBCM to hold the new MLA’s feet to the fire and to hold the new government’s feet to the fire, because there were promises made around that hospital,” said Litke.

However, Mayor Dan Ashton, who was elected as MLA for the Penticton riding on May 14, has yet to give a firm date for his resignation, though he still says it will be “as soon as possible,” and expects that will be soon after the MLAs are sworn in.

“My leave has been extended until the 14th of June, and that is just until I get sworn in,” said Ashton. “As soon as everything takes place, the election is certified and I am sworn in, then I will be handing in my resignation.”

Before and during the election campaign, Ashton promised to cover the costs of a municipal byelection to replace him, up to a value of $35,000.

The changes to the city’s election bylaw delete references to a sample ballot, remove the requirement that all elections be held at the Penticton Trade and Convention Centre and also removes the specified locations and times for special voting opportunities.

“The last time that was set was over ten years ago, so times and places may have changed,” said corporate officer Dana Schmidt, explaining the changes will give the city more flexibility in setting the time and place of a byelection, in case the convention centre was booked for another event. “We also need to consider adopting this bylaw fairly quickly if we may be heading into a by election, so it is applicable for that byelection.”

Council gave the bylaw its first three readings Tuesday, and adopted it at a special meeting Thursday morning.

“There are particular timelines in place that are mandated by the legislation,” said Litke. “There is some urgency if we wish to accomplish the goal of having a mayor and council in place by Sept. 16.”