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What happens when a city councillor runs for MLA?

On Monday, City Council voted unanimously to use the Yellowknife River as the city's source or drinking water and to pursue funding for replacing the submarine water line. Brett McGarry / NNSL photo.

With Rommel Silverio and Niels Konge running for MLA in the upcoming territorial election, should either of them be successful, city council will have to decide how they will be replaced.

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City councillor Niels Konge is one of two city councillors running in Yellowknife. Both him and Rommel Silverio will still be able to work as councillors until either is voted in as an MLA.

Although city councillors who are running for office are still able to complete their duties with the city up until the results of the election, under current bylaw, as soon as a vacancy occurs a by-election must be called to find a replacement.

Both Konge and Silverio were elected and sworn in to their council positions after municipal elections last fall.

During a Sept. 9 government and priorities committee meeting, councilllors discussed changing the Council Procedures Bylaw to give council the ability to choose more options when it comes to filling these vacancies.

The proposed changes allow council to decide if the seat should be left vacant, allow them to appoint a member of the public or call a by-election. This would bring the city bylaw more closely aligned with territorial legislation.

"The Local Authorities Election Act (under the GNWT) is paramount and it says that councils have the option to fill before the next election," said Sheila Bassi-Kellett, senior administrative officer.

"The conditions in the City, Towns and Villages Act (CTV) says at least at any point in time there has to be at least half the number of council members laid out in the by law."

Rommel Silverio, city councillor, announced his candidacy late last week for the Kam Lake electoral district.  He joins five other candidates in the election. Submitted photo

This means there could be less than eight but always more than four councillors present to run council.

The proposed changes saw broad support from councillors on Monday, though a few mentioned concerns over council appointing a new member.

Coun. Konge and Coun. Stacie Smith said that perhaps the councillor candidate with the next most votes should be appointed, but Mayor Rebecca Alty cautioned council not to be overly specific in the bylaw wording to avoid further complication.

"Right now the bylaw is very prescriptive," said Alty.

"If there is a vacancy on council it'll be brought forward to determine if we want it to be vacant or do we want a by-election or do we want an appointment.

"At that time council would have vigorous debate on how an appointment would look. If we're prescriptive in our bylaw, we're removing that option from the council of the day."

If new changes are adopted, the requirements for appointment is that they are eligible as a candidate which means they are 18, a Canadian citizen, resident of Yellowknife and has not owed the city money for more than 30 days.

Town of Hay River

The Town of Hay River is another municipality that dealt with a recent vacancy at council this year when Joe Melanson left the position.

They had three options: leave the seat vacant, go to a by-election or appoint someone from the previous ballot.

Ultimately, Hay River council decided to leave the seat vacant and the City of Yellowknife now looks to be able to have similar options.

The Town of Inuvik is the only other major centre with a municipal councillor running for office with Desmond Loreen.

A by-election would cost the city between $15,000 and $20,000 according to city administration.