Richmond wants response from department before adding mayor vs. warden to municipal ballot

ARICHAT: Council wants more information before proceeding with a ballot question in this fall’s municipal election.

Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) Don Marchand told council during a virtual meeting Monday night that he sent an e-mail to municipal advisor Ross MacDonald with the Department of Municipal Affairs and Housing asking how to put the question to voters of a mayoral system versus retaining the status-quo.

MacDonald requested that Richmond County approach Sandy Hudson with Elections Nova Scotia, but before doing so, Marchand wanted to find out from council whether they want to decide how to put the question to voters, or does council want him to first speak with Hudson.

“There is no option that I know of, aside from creating a new ballot itself, which obviously creates some expense to create that ballot,” Marchand said. “I don’t know how it will work with the returning officer and the poll clerks, and everybody who would be involved in the election, to hold. Would there be an extra fee?”

During the regular monthly meeting of Richmond Municipal Council on September 23 in Arichat, council voted 2-2 against a motion to hold consultation sessions in 12 communities around Richmond County and ask residents whether they want to keep a warden or adopt a new system electing a mayor.

At the time, the CAO told council that staff recommended the printing of ballots for residents to vote at the conclusion of each meeting. Marchand said it would have taken seven to 10 weeks to hold the sessions at a cost of between $3,000 and $3,500, which included rentals, food and materials.

Once residents voted, the CAO said staff could have compiled those results and brought them back to council before the December council meeting.

In the absence of a decision in September, information on a mayor versus warden system was provided in the municipality’s “Reflections of Richmond” newsletter last fall.

“The information was put there but we really didn’t decide on the most effective way of collecting information,” Warden Brian Marchand said on Monday night.

District 1 councillor James Goyetche said there’s no point putting the question on the ballot this year because nothing will be done for the next four years.

“It’s not going to make any difference this election,” Goyetche told council. “That can only be done, not this election, that can only be done, next election. We’re four years away, and I think we’ll have to look at that when a new council is up. That’s a time to look at before the next election.”

District 5 councillor Jason MacLean said if Hudson tells them they can proceed, the municipality should do so.

“If we have to do that through a plebiscite, then that could be fairly expensive, so if there’s a cheaper way of us doing that and gathering that information on a ballot then I suggest that we do it that way.”

Council agreed to wait to hear back from Elections Nova about their options.