A by-election is an election that happens during the council or school board term. It may occur because:
- a seat becomes vacant on a council or school board (by-election for office)
- the municipality wants to put a question to voters before the next regular election (by-election for a question on the ballot)
If a member of a municipal council or school board resigns, loses their eligibility (for example, by moving away) or dies during the term, their seat becomes vacant.
A vacancy on a council must be filled unless the vacancy occurs within 90 days before voting day in the next regular election. A vacancy on a school board must be filled unless the vacancy occurs within one month before voting day in the next regular election.
A vacant seat can be filled either by appointing someone who is qualified or by holding a by-election.
If a council or school board decides to fill a vacancy by appointment, they must appoint a person who is eligible to serve on the council or school board and who is willing to accept the appointment.
The legislation does not set out a process for making the appointment. It is up to the council or school board to determine how they will decide who to appoint. Different approaches include:
- appointing the candidate who came second in the regular election
- inviting interested persons to apply for the position
- offering the appointment to a member of the community
Sometimes councils or school boards want to put additional restrictions on appointees, such as requiring that an appointee agree not to run in the next regular election. While a council or school board may set this as a condition for appointment, there is nothing in provincial legislation that would prevent someone who was appointed from running in the next election.
By-election for an office
Once the council or school board has decided to hold a by-election, the municipal clerk is in charge of conducting it. The council or school board does not decide when the last day to file nominations or voting day will be. These dates are determined by the clerk.
Nominations open when the council has passed the bylaw ordering the by-election, or when the school board has passed a resolution ordering the by-election and sent it to the clerk who will conduct it. Nominations close at 2 p.m. on nomination day.
The clerk must set nomination day within 60 days after the by-election was ordered by council, the board or the court.
Voting day will be 45 days after nomination day.
By-election for a question on the ballot
If a council or board wants to put a question on the ballot, they do not have to wait until the next regular election to do so. They could hold a by-election specifically to allow electors to vote on the question.
Voting day for a by-election to put a question on the ballot must be at least 180 days after the bylaw or resolution to hold the by-election has been passed.