The path towards the filling (finally) of the eighth seat on Thompson’s city council, which has been vacant for the four months that have now passed since last October’s municipal election, became a little bit clearer last week when Manitoba Court of Queen’s Bench Justice Herbert Rempel dismissed a civil court application by Chiew Chong, who failed to get elected in the fall, challenging the election results.
That Rempel dismissed the application is not particularly surprising. There are limited grounds on which a candidate can challenge the results of an election. Which, if any, of these Chong opted for is not something we can say for certain at this moment, as the file detailing the particulars of his civil motion has not yet been returned to the Thompson court office and, because of the judge’s schedule and the desire to have the application heard by the same judge who conducted the judicial recount, the case ended up being heard in Winnipeg, precluding most interested observers from taking in the proceedings. If nothing else, at least we can be thankful that the application was heard before the March 11 byelection, at which time voters will choose from among Chong, Andre Proulx and former councillor Blake Ellis. Chong and Proulx, as those who are interested should remember, tied with 1,008 votes on election night, though this was later revised to 1,009 votes each after Rempel overturned the election day rejection of one ballot but rejected a different ballot. The mechanics of it are no longer important, particularly since it seems that the accepted ballot had votes for both candidates and the one that was at first accepted and then rejected must have had votes for neither. Ellis finished about 25 votes or so behind the two candidates who tied.
It doesn’t seem particularly likely that there will be a high turnout for the byelection when advance voting takes place next week, nor when election day itself rolls around the week after that. The campaign has, up to this point, been essentially non-existent, apart from the candidates setting up pages or posting information on Facebook, though perhaps they are going door to door or engaging voters in some other method that hasn’t come to this newspaper’s attention. We will attempt to provide you with some information upon which to base your choice by reprinting longer versions of interviews the three candidates gave in the run-up to the October municipal election, and hopefully by conducting new interviews with the candidates between now and election day.
If you have already made up your mind that you will be voting, thanks, no matter who you vote for. If you are undecided, please make that decision before March 11 and please opt to have your say. If you are not planning to vote, realize that changing your mind could literally make all the difference. Had one more voter decided to go to their polling place on Oct. 24 and chosen either Chong or Proulx, we would be writing about something completely different in this space, and all the money spent on holding a byelection and court challenges would have been saved. One vote really can make a difference.