By Kirk Starratt
It’s been bitterly cold in Kings County, but things are certainly heating up on the special election campaign trail.
The official nomination day isn’t until Feb. 19, but there are already several potential candidates in County of Kings Districts 8 and 11 declaring their intentions to run in the March 16 by-election. The county has yet to hire a returning officer, but applications were being reviewed last week. The special elections were called as the result of a Dec. 21 Supreme Court decision overturning the results of Oct. 20 elections in these districts.
In District 8, Rick Ackland has his campaign well underway. He’s already visited many doorsteps, has signs up and he’s advertising. Ackland said he’d be interested in a debate with other candidates.
“I didn’t do this to give in,” he said about successfully challenging his disqualification in court and subsequently declaring his special election candidacy.
“I was illegally disqualified.”
The returning officer had disqualified Ackland as a candidate Oct. 5 because he served as a citizen appointee on the Grand View Manor Board, essentially a volunteer position with a small stipend.
Judge Gregory Warner ruled Dec. 21 that Ackland and Jim Winsor, a District 11 candidate who served as a citizen appointee on the municipal trails committee, were not disqualified. This overturned the Oct. 20 election results in these districts, vacating the council seats. Gary Connolly had won in District 11 and Dale Lloyd retained his District 8 seat.
Ackland said he no longer serves on the Grand View Manor board, but would do so again gladly in the future as the area councillor or otherwise. He said it’s a great institution and very important to Berwick and the county.
Ackland recognizes there are many challenges at hand, but maintains that each and every council decision should be predicated on the principles of lowering taxes and creating jobs.
Lloyd intends to run for election once again in District 8. Lloyd said he is disappointed over the Dec. 21 court decision, but not so much with the decision itself. It’s created an awkward situation for both he and Connolly and changed the rules entirely.
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“We (Lloyd and Connolly) both won our elections handily and had absolutely nothing to do with the court challenge,” Lloyd said. “It just happened to be in our districts.”
Lloyd said he couldn’t help but think of Peter Jackson. Jackson was disqualified as a candidate in District 2 because he served as a citizen appointee on the county’s planning advisory committee. However, Jackson didn’t join in the legal challenge and the October election results in District 2 stand. Emma Van Rooyen won in that riding.
Ted Palmer, former District 8 councillor who also ran in October, said his candidacy in the special election isn’t definite at this point, but it’s probable.
“I’m going to take some nomination papers out,” he said. “Whether I file them or not depends on a couple things I have to look into.”
Palmer said he’s still interested in serving as area councillor. He’s been on the ballot in every election since 1994 and said it would be strange not to be.
Palmer said he hasn’t heard any negative comments about having another election. He recognizes mistakes were made and said, in all fairness, there has to be another election as soon as possible. However, he doesn’t think the situation is fair to Ackland or Lloyd and recognizes there could be more candidates coming forward.
“I think the public is kind of wondering what would have happened if all three of us were on the ballot in October,” Palmer said.
In District 11, Jim Winsor is back on the campaign trail. He’s sending a Canada Post mail-out to residents explaining the circumstances surrounding the special election and his candidacy.
“I want people to understand who I am and what I’m about,” Winsor said. “I want to hear from voters what is on their mind.”
Winsor no longer serves on the municipal trails committee. He resigned shortly after the controversy arose in October. The committee hadn’t met since last summer and is being enfolded into county council’s committee of the whole.
He said his motivation to run this time is the same as it was in October. He’s prepared to leave the past behind and move forward to create an even stronger Kings County. Winsor said the Supreme Court decision was a win for democracy, recognizing what went wrong in the 2012 election so people can look forward to a fair, open election in District 11.
“I remain strong in my conviction that our council needs to manage our tax dollars better and to work hand in hand with citizens, businesses and villages like New Minas,” Winsor said.
Connolly said he is certainly going to run again in the special election, as he was the elected councillor at the time the court vacated the seat. He said he lives in the village, pays taxes and runs his business there. He’d like the opportunity once again to represent the New Minas area on council.
“The village is being turned upside down for the sake of one person,” Connolly said about the court decision. “It’s a sad situation. We (Connolly and Lloyd) won fair and square.”
He said he spent $3,500 of his own money on his 2012 campaign and there’s no way for him to get it back. However, Connolly said he’d again finance his campaign on his own.
“I won’t have as big a campaign, but hopefully, people will see the good work I did in one and a half months,” Connolly said.
He wants four years to show the village and municipality what he can accomplish, he added.
Former District 11 councillor, Eric Smith, said he isn’t going to run again. Smith lost the October election to Connolly, but later questioned the ramifications of the Supreme Court decision. If the October election results were declared null and void, he said, then maybe he was never unseated.
“When they threw it out, I felt I should be councillor until the next election and be paid for it,” Smith said.
However, Smith said he recognizes his duly elected four-year term was up anyway.
Pick up a copy of the Jan. 31 Kings County Register for further coverage on this special election