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  • Writer's pictureESSEX FREE PRESS

Planning on running for Council? Here’s some of what you need to know

by Sylene Argent

Those wishing to run for a council position for a regional municipality in the upcoming fall election were able to attend a virtual information session last Thursday evening to learn the ins and outs – and the dos and don’ts – regarding not only the rules and procedures of campaigning, but what is expected of a local representative.

  The information session also provided information for those thinking of registering as third-party advertisers or running for school board positions.

  “Municipal government is the most responsive and accountable level of government, and it is so important we have people who, like all of you, are willing to contribute your time and talents to our community,” Mary Birch, Director of Legislative and Community Services/Clerk for the County of Essex, said as the event emcee.

  Birch noted Windsor and Pelee are single-tier municipalities. The seven municipalities in the County of Essex are part of a two-tier municipal governance system, where the Mayors and Deputy Mayors of Leamington, Kingsville, Lakeshore, Essex, LaSalle, Tecumseh, and Amherstburg sit on County Council, and govern over County matters, in addition to municipal issues.

  Those elected to County Council, amongst themselves, elect a Warden and Deputy Warden, head positions for this decision-making table, for the four-year Term of Council.

  Carol Sauve and Caitlin Reddick, both Municipal Advisors for the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing, provided a plethora of information to the potential candidates during the information session. In addition, election officials from the seven county municipalities, the City of Windsor, and Pelee Island, were on hand to further answer any questions that may have arisen during the session, as each municipality may have different rules or regulations candidates need to follow.

  The information session was recorded and will be posted to the We Vote 2022 election page on www.countyofessex.ca, in addition to other helpful links. The Power Point presentation will also be available on the website to help guide future candidates through the election.  

  Some of the key bits of information provided for those thinking of running for a municipal council position over the nearly two-hour session include:

  • Nominations open May 2 (some municipalities may require candidates to register in person, including Essex)

• Nomination Day is August 19, between 9am and 2pm

• Candidates must complete Form 1 (the nomination paper) and submit it to the Clerk with the fee ($200 for head of Council, $100 for other Council positions)

• Nominations must also be endorsed by 25 people, using the Form 2

Endorsement of Nomination from (by those eligible to vote).

• Withdraws from the election must be filed with the Clerk’s Office in writing before Nomination Day closes

• Candidates must register with their municipality before campaigning and collecting funds for their campaign

• Eligibility includes: a resident, owner, or tenant of land in the municipality, or spouse of such owner or tenant; a Canadian citizen; 18-years or older; not legally prohibited from voting; not disqualified from any legislation from holding municipal office.

• In a town with a ward system, residents of that municipality can run in any of its wards, but may not be able to vote for themselves

• There are several rules regarding contributions, including that over $25 may be by cheque or money order or by a method that clearly shows where the funds originated.

• There is a limit on the amount a candidate can make to their own campaign

• Campaign expenses include expenses incurred for goods and services in relation to an election; the replacement value of any goods held in inventory from a previous election; the equivalent value of any contribution of goods and services for use in whole or part

• There are spending limits

• There are campaign finance rules, dealt with through the Municipal Elections Act. A campaign bank account must be open before spending funds or accepting contributions. All monetary contributions must be deposited into the account

• Candidates and third-party advertisers must file their financial statements on or before 2pm on March 31, 2023

• Candidates can close their campaigns and file their financial statement after voting day until January 3, 2023

• Voting Day is October 24

  Former LaSalle CAO and Mayor for the Town of LaSalle, Ken Antaya, then spoke about what can be expected with being involved in public service.

  In running for political office, “You are committing your time and privacy in an effort to make your community a better place to live,” he said.

  “Being elected to political office is a rush; it’s maddening, it’s fulfilling, it will keep you up at night, will challenge your integrity and commitment, you will feel like your family life is suffering, but it could end up being the most rewarding public service experience of your life,” Antaya said.

  Those who are elected will feel great as they accomplish goals with fellow Council members. They will be called on to make decisions on matters that will sometimes be complex or controversial.

  “Any of those decisions will have long-term consequences for your municipality that extend beyond your four-year term of office,” he said, adding decisions should be made in the context of the municipality’s plan for long-term health and welfare for the community.

  He explained the role of town administration and Council, and how the two parts work together. A council member is often a first point of contact for ratepayers who have questions or concerns about local issues.  

  “While individual council members do not have the authority to direct staff to undertake any particular action, they can help in answering questions, finding solutions, or facilitating interaction with administration. A smooth council/staff relationship is evident to the ratepayer, as is one that struggles.”

  He explained Council member responsibilities include supporting the municipality in its operations, while ensuring the public and municipality’s wellbeing and interests are maintained.

  “As a Council member you have main roles to play in your municipality, as a representative, a policy maker, and a steward,” he said.

  “One of the most common downfalls of aspiring candidates is the decision [of which] side of controversial issues you stand. If a candidate runs an election on a single issue, or has an axe to grind, it is best they save their time and effort and allow someone with a more noble passion to have a chance at the seat.”

  He said municipal operations must align with legislation, regulations, and other provincial policies. Candidates need to be aware of that, especially when making election promises.   

  Antaya also explained there are generally two types of decisions when one is on Council; the popular one and the right one.

“Rarely is the popular decision the right one, but it does happen. This decision can lead to anxious moments between representatives and constituents. This is where commitment to your opinion counts. Constituents will respect your position as long as you have a solid, logical approach and that you did not let politics weigh your opinion.

   An impactful decision, on any issue, normally can take many steps and long-term considerations, Antaya added. “It is important to note a Council member’s responsibility is to support decisions that will better serve the diverse needs of the entire municipality.”  

  He also spoke of accountability and transparency, and the Code of Conducts council members have to abide by.

  In Essex, the two main contacts for election inquiries are Robert Auger, Director of Legislative Services/Clerk, and Shelley Brown, Deputy Clerk. They can be contacted by calling  519-776-7336 ext 1100 or emailing clerks@essex.ca.

  Information specific to Essex’s Municipal Election can be found at https://elections.essex.ca/, including the candidate nomination package. Essex only accepts nominations in-person at the Clerk’s Office.

  “One of the big reasons why we are requiring those registrations and the filing of the Form 1 – the nomination – together with the Form 2 endorsements at the Clerk’s Office is because it is really a good opportunity for [Brown] and myself to meet with that prospective candidate.”

Those thinking of running may have questions and are encouraged to make an appointment with Brown or Auger to ask questions.

The Town does have hard copies of the candidate nomination package for those who would like one.  

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