Byelection for vacant Nanaimo-Ladysmith school board seat could happen in the new year

Trustees to further discuss matter at their next board meeting

Nanaimo Ladysmith Public Schools. (News Bulletin file photo)

Nanaimo Ladysmith Public Schools. (News Bulletin file photo)

A Nanaimo Ladysmith Public Schools trustee byelection is looming in the wake of Lisa Marie Barron’s successful MP election campaign.

Barron announced her resignation as trustee in late September and under the B.C. School Act, a byelection must be held as she stepped down prior to Jan. 1 of a municipal election year.

According to a school district staff report, the cost of a byelection is estimated at $100,000. The district could request an exemption from the B.C. Ministry of Education, the report noted, but at the district’s Oct. 13 business committee meeting, some trustees spoke in favour of heading to the polls.

Charlene McKay, school board chairperson, said the process is clearly defined in the school act.

“I think at the end of the day, we need to recognize and really acknowledge publicly, probably regularly, that we didn’t trigger this byelection,” said McKay. “There was a federal election … and as a result, people put their names forward and it created a vacancy on our board. It’s not a wilful spending or wasting of money, which perhaps we’ve heard comment of, but rather us following the appropriate process.”

Trustee Stephanie Higginson said based on her experience as B.C. School Trustees’ Association president, a ministry exemption isn’t likely.

“From the perspective of folks that I asked … they just don’t see a lever that would allow the minister to give SD68 an exemption to the election,” said Higginson.

Tania Brzovic said she was divided on the subject.

“Many people in the community have come and talked to me and have said that they’re just exhausted,” said Brzovic. “It’s not even the financial aspect. It’s the energy that it can take to meaningfully pay attention to an election campaign … my instinct was to lean towards at least attempting to ask for the exemption. However, if that is not likely to be feasible, I certainly don’t want to muck up the process.”

The district alone would be responsible for the byelection as it crosses over a number of local government boundaries.

The board is expected to further discuss the matter at its Oct. 27 meeting. A decision made at that meeting could lead to a byelection likely being held Jan. 15.

In an e-mail, the B.C. Ministry of Education told the News Bulletin that it hasn’t received any request from Nanaimo-Ladysmith about a byelection exemption or postponement. Earlier in the pandemic, some school districts postponed byelections until proper protocols could be put in place, it said.

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