Witless Bay by-election result in doubt

Town failed to follow rules set out in Municipalities Act

Mark Squibb / August 11, 2023

The Town of Witless Bay is avoiding questions about whether it met the requirements of the Municipalities Act in the way it handled its most recent call for nominations to fill two open seats on council.

The Act stipulates that the Call for Nominations must be posted in no fewer than two public places in the municipality for 10 days before the actual nomination day.

Council, during a public council meeting held Wednesday evening, July 26, approved Thursday, August 3 as the date for Nomination Day. It posted the Call for Nominations two days later on Friday, July 28 on facebook. That made for five days notice, which is half of what is required under the Municipalities Act.

The only person to come forward for nomination was Alan Richards, who is the husband of Deputy Mayor Lorna Yard. Council then announced he was acclaimed to office.

The Act also stipulates the Call for Nominations must be published in a “newspaper having general circulation in the municipality, where there is such a newspaper, during that period,” according to an official from the Department of Municipal Affairs.

Phone calls and e-mails to the Town’s new chief administrative officer, Jennifer Aspell, over the last week regarding the issue have gone unacknowledged.

Mayor Trevor Croft, meanwhile, declined an interview, but in a message replied, “That’s info that I wouldn’t know to be honest. All the info I can give is that everything went through Municipal Affairs to be certain we followed all the guidelines that were required.”

Croft added that he was hoping more people would have come forward for nomination. “Unfortunately there is a lot of negativity out there and people don’t want to deal with that,” he said. “It can be a thankless job.”

Richards was sworn into office on Monday, August 7.

The Irish Loop Post tried to reach Richards via his wife’s e-mail address, as his Town e-mail account has not yet been set up. That e-mail went unacknowledged. There is no public phone listing for either Richards or Yard in the telephone directory.

Witless Bay council had earlier contravened the Municipalities Act by failing to call a byelection within the 90 days period required following the resignation of a councillor. Alex Troake quit in April. Council eventually asked the Province for an extension. Councillor Nancy Burke tendered her resignation last month, creating a second opening in the chamber.

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