They come at a huge cost, and traditionally only five per cent of voters even bother to show up.
That's the reason Coquitlam Mayor Richard Stewart and newly elected Liberal MLA Linda Reimer are hoping the province will relax the rules around municipal byelec-tions.
Reimer's stunning upset over incumbent NDPer Joe Trasolini in the Port Moody-Coquitlam riding on election night means something has to be done with her seat on council.
Under the Local Government Act, if a city council seat is vacated before Jan. 1 of an election year, in this case 2014, a byelection must be held.
The next civic election is scheduled for the fall of 2014.
Reimer said she's looking at her options, but noted one possibility is to keep her council seat and take an unpaid leave of absence until after Jan. 1, 2014, thus avoiding a byelection.
"That would be the goal, to save taxpayers' money," she told the Tri-Cities NOW, adding her interest in keeping her seat isn't about working both jobs.
She noted the unpaid-leave option would need to be approved by council.
Reimer is hoping her new government will show some flexibility with city councils, noting more than a dozen other municipal politicians are in the same boat.
Stewart is also hoping the provincial government and minister responsible for local government will show flexibility around the issue, pointing out that a typical byelection costs the city more than $200,000.
"In the end, lets face it, it's a real challenge because we get almost no voter turnout," he said.
The numbers don't really lie.
The city held two byelec-tions in the two previous terms and the turnouts were dismal.
The 2007 byelection to replace retired councillor Louella Hollington saw a 4.9per-cent voter turnout, while the byelection in 2010 to replace now-MP Fin Donnelly had a 7.5-per-cent turnout.
However, the mayor points out there were two referendum-style questions on the ballot in 2010, bringing out the slightly larger numbers.
Stewart said, with council's approval, he's already reached out to the province and the ministry to get the city an exemption from holding a byelection.
It's a move that, if granted across the province, he suggested could save taxpayers millions of dollars.
"Tally up that money and you're talking about an awful lot of good a community could do if it didn't have that onerous requirement to fill a seat for a few months," Stewart said.
As for running with seven councillors instead of the usual eight, the mayor said he doesn't see it being an issue.
"It would be no problem running with seven. We've done that before in other circumstances," he said, pointing out the city is really only mandated to have six councillors.
There has been no timeline set by the province for when the issue could be resolved.
© Copyright 2013