In an effort to protect its reputation, Elections PEI has terminated its role as the municipal electoral officer for the City of Charlottetown.
In a letter dated February 3, 2023 (PDF, 288kb), chief electoral officer Tim Garrity notified the city that Elections PEI is no longer interested in conducting future elections on the city’s behalf. Elections PEI is not mandated to conduct municipal elections, but the Island’s five largest municipalities have opted in the past to contract that role to Elections PEI, while smaller communities hold their own elections.
The decision to drop Charlottetown stems from a contentious standing committee meeting last summer that left Garrity with concerns regarding some councillors' understanding of the Municipal Government Act, its accompanying regulations, and the fundamental principle of impartial elections.
Leading up to last year’s election, Garrity identified that the city’s election bylaw did not meet provincial regulations, specifically where mobile polling stations can be located: hospitals, community care facilities and nursing homes. Charlottetown's election bylaw, which has since been amended, included mobile polls in some seniors' apartment complexes. Garrity highlighted that allowing non-compliant mobile polling stations could potentially expose the city's election to manipulation by vested interests, particularly council members aiming for a favorable outcome. Garrity required that the bylaw be updated if the city wanted Elections PEI to conduct last November's vote.
That’s where relations started to sour.
During the standing committee meeting, Mayor Philip Brown and Coun. Mitch Tweel challenged Garrity’s recommendation. Comments were made that Garrity felt were disrespectful and had potential to diminish or tarnish the integrity of Elections PEI. At one point it was suggested that the mail-in ballot process is not confidential, claims that Garrity insists were false.
Asked if there’s an opportunity for the city to make amends, Garrity said the relationship is damaged and not at a point to be repaired. The city now has until 2026 to come up with a new plan. It’s considering two options: ask the legislative assembly to intervene by requesting that Elections PEI enter into a new contract with the city, or research the option to hold its own elections, and in doing so, research the option to introduce online voting.
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