Guelph/Eramosa reviews recount policy ahead of 2022 municipal election

GUELPH/ERAMOSA – After reviewing the township’s recount policy in anticipation of the 2022 municipal election, council here has decided to continue to default to the provincial legislation as set out in the Municipal Elections Act.

On Dec. 20 council heard from township clerk Amanda Knight on a report on the election, which is set to take place on Oct. 24.

Staff sought council’s authorization to update the policy on use of corporate resources for election purposes and to authorize a proposed bylaw regarding language of prescribed forms, notices and information.

Council was also asked to provide direction on the township’s recount policy.

Recount policy

The report noted that under Section 56 of the Municipal Elections Act, a municipality may adopt a policy outlining “the circumstances in which the municipality requires the clerk to hold a recount of the votes cast in the election.”

According to the report, a recount can be conducted under the following three circumstances:

  • where the counting of ballots resulted in a tied vote and one candidate wouldn’t be elected;
  • where a municipality, local board or Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing has passed a resolution to order a recount; and
  • where an electors’ request for a recount has been granted by the Superior Court of Justice.

“It is the opinion of staff that a number of mechanisms already exist that allow for recounts to be held without having to have a recount policy,” the report stated.

“Therefore, staff do not recommend the adoption of a recount policy at this time.”

Since the township’s not including a recount policy, councillor Corey Woods asked what the policy would be.

Knight referred to 2018, when officials last discussed the possibility of implementing a recount policy for the township.

“At that time, the discussion around recount policy was that the municipality didn’t want to establish its own parameters; the preference was to default to the Municipal Elections Act,” Knight explained.

“And that way staff aren’t coming up with an arbitrary number, council isn’t proposing an arbitrary number, we’re just sticking with what’s in the legislation and following that.”

Woods raised concerns about the last of the three recount circumstances.

“Let’s say one of us loses by four votes, now we have to go to Superior Court and ask a judge to order a recount,” Woods explained.

“I thought that was kind of onerous on a winner or loser to go to Superior Court for a recount if there’s a split of seven votes or something.”

He added, “Obviously if you win by 300 votes, you’re not going to get a recount, but I think if it’s a small number it seems kind of silly to go to Superior Court to try and get a recount.”

“But one party may do that,” Mayor Chris White responded, adding the township’s better off defaulting to the provincial legislation.

“I think by defaulting to the provincial legislation that’s probably your safest recount bet … because there’s going to be challenges maybe around the number, but there may be challenges around the process.”

White added, “So if we make our own, then you can just challenge the process before you even get to the numbers.

“By defaulting to the provincial one, we remove ourselves from trying to manufacture something that might be challengeable, but I think at the end of the day … you may be able to run this to Superior Court, whichever one you pick.”

Knight noted if the township were to have its own policy someone could potentially not only challenge the election results, but the township’s policy as well.

“I think the thought has always been if we just default to provincial legislation then we’re following the guidelines set out by the province and then what they’re challenging are the results and nothing more than that,” she explained.

“The purpose of this report is to get input from council as to whether or not you do want us to pursue drafting our own recount policy, but if there is no appetite to move in that direction then we would just automatically default to the provincial legislation.”

“We’re not going to pick up our own recount policy, we’re not going to make something up,” White stated.

“We’re going to default to the province, which is what we’ve done in the past.”

Council received the report and approved the motion, which stated that council will not adopt its own recount policy.