Interior BC village determines next mayor by coin toss to break tie vote

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A village in British Columbia’s East Kootenay region has determined its next mayor by ballot by a judge to break the tie between the two candidates who ran for the top job on October 15.

Canal Flats, a community of 800 near the British Columbia-Alberta border, announcement Monday that as part of the recount at the Invermere Provincial Courthouse, the judge pulled a name from a box and declared Mark Doherty mayor-elect.

Doherty, a local businessman, and rival Doug McCutcheon, a Canal Flats councilman, both won 158 votes in the mayoral election more than a week ago. Both aimed to replace Karl Sterzer, who did not seek another term as mayor.

The Canal Flats bylaw requires that in the event of a tie vote, the village Chief Electoral Officer can either initiate a judicial recount and have a judge draw a candidate’s name from a box, or hold a second round.

Too expensive to do a second round

Chief Electoral Officer Sylvie Hoobanoff said the mayor’s votes were recounted twice before the judicial recount and it would be too costly for the village to hold another mayoral election.

“For a small municipality, it’s a huge expense,” she said. “And that would mean the council could be sworn in on November 7, but they wouldn’t have a mayor.”

Doherty, who attended the recount with McCutcheon, says they both agree.

“We found that it was prohibitively expensive for us to organize a re-vote, so we thought it [a draw] would be better and cheaper for the community to do it that way,” he said.

The mayor-elect says his next step is to bring the community together.

“We want to try to attract more businesses to Canal Flats. We want to create more affordable housing for Canal Flats residents. These are high on our priority list.”

It has been rare in the political history of British Columbia to determine the mayor by the luck of the draw.

The last time this happened was during municipal elections four years ago, when Peachland, B.C. Mayor Cindy Fortin kept her job after a judge pulled her name in a similar situation.

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