Hamlet candidates face unusual voteUnusual situation in Sachs Harbour in upcoming council election
Northern News Services
Published Saturday, November 23, 2013
In a curious example of democracy in action, the candidates for election in one NWT hamlet are all guaranteed to win a seat on council.
On Dec. 9, elections will be held in most hamlets of the Northwest Territories. - NNSL file photo
That will happen in Sachs Harbour on Dec. 9, when annual elections are held in almost all hamlets in the NWT.
There are five open seats on the Sachs Harbour council – three seats with two-year terms and two seats for one year – but only four candidates.
However, an election will still take place, not acclamations.
"It's a little bit of an unusual situation," said David Kravitz, the chief municipal electoral officer with the Department of Municipal and Community Affairs.
"The four candidates will all have a seat on the new council," he said. "What needs to be determined is who gets the two-year terms and who gets the one-year term."
Kravitz explained the situation was created because of the practice in hamlets of staggering elections to have various numbers of councillors elected each year and the fact some councillors resign during their terms.
"Rather than having an immediate byelection, they'll wait for the regular election and they'll combine the regular election and the byelection, and often times it usually works out just fine that you get enough candidates to fill all the seats that are available," he said. "In this case, what happened is we had three regular seats and two seats that were vacant for the remainder of their term, and they decided to combine the two elections, but they only got the four candidates."
The top three vote-getters will be elected for two years, while the fourth-place candidate will be elected for one year.
Council will decide how to fill the vacant seat.
Kravitz said he advised the Hamlet of Sachs Harbour to proceed with an election.
That would be the fairest for the candidates, he said, noting it is not a similar situation to a name being drawn from a hat when two candidates are tied after a vote.
"In this case, no one has voted," he said. "So let the people decide who they think they want for two years and who they want for one year."
Sachs Harbour was one of three hamlets that extended the nomination period to Nov. 18 after a shortage of candidates by the initial deadline on Nov. 12.
In Sachs Harbour, there were four candidates as of Nov. 12 and the extension didn't result in more people coming forward.
However, more candidates came forward in the two other hamlets – Paulatuk and Fort Liard – which also extended the nomination period.
Paulatuk went from two candidates to five, and will now have an election for four seats on council.
"I'm pleased that there are more than four, but not overly pleased with the number of candidates," said Gilbert Thrasher Jr., the acting senior administrative officer and the returning officer for the Hamlet of Paulatuk.
"Basically, I do have enough to run an election," he said. "That's what I'm happy about."
However, Thrasher noted there have been more candidates in the past in Paulatuk.
In Fort Liard, there are now eight candidates for six seats on council. After five names had been put forward by Nov. 12, the extension of the nomination deadline to Nov. 18 found three additional candidates.
There will be actual voting in all 10 hamlets with elections this year – Aklavik, Enterprise, Fort Liard, Fort McPherson, Fort Providence, Fort Resolution, Paulatuk, Tuktoyaktuk, Sachs Harbour and Ulukhaktok.
The only acclamations were incumbent Morris McLeod, who was the only candidate for mayor in Fort Liard, and four councillors in Tuktoyaktuk, where there will be a vote for mayor.
In all, there are five races for mayor featuring a total of 12 candidates.
There are now 71 candidates for council seats, including the four acclaimed to office in Tuktoyaktuk.
Kravitz said he likes to see elections as opposed to acclamations, adding, "I think people prefer to see a contest rather than people get acclaimed just simply because they put their name forward."