In the end it came down to the luck of the draw.
Incumbent Peachland Mayor Cindy Fortin will serve a second term after her name was drawn from a box that contained two pieces of identical paper, folded the exact same way, one with her name on it and the other bearing the name of her challenger, Harry Gough.
Fortin and Gough each received 804 votes in the Oct. 20 mayoral election and when two recounts—one by Peachland election staff and the other overseen by B.C. Provincial Court Judge Ellen Burdett—could not break the impasse, Burdett had to draw a name out of the box to pick a winner.
While some would have preferred a run-off election, Peachland’s election bylaw calls for the drawing of names in the event of a tie.
“That is something that I want Peachland to look at (and consider changing for future elections),” said a relieved Fortin moments after her name was pulled from the green wooden box.
Fortin, first elected mayor in 2014 after serving one term as a district councillor, said she was not nervous during the two recounts, but was in the moments just before the draw.
“Wow,” she said after her name was pulled out by Burdett.
Asked how she felt, Fortin replied: “you’ll have to ask me in a few moments when my heart stops fluttering.”
Fortin thanked all the people who had helped get the election finally settled, and singled out Gough for praise, saying he was “very gracious” throughout the process.
She said she wants to get back to work as quickly as possible and wants to work on mending the differences that sprang up in the community, even before the election campaign.
One of the most contentious issues was council’s controversial approval earlier this year of a five-storey waterfront development, slated for Beach Avenue near the community’s downtown. It will be the district’s tallest building and some feel it’s too tall for the location. Opponents accused council of changing the official community plan after the fact to allow the development.
Despite that, it was a conciliatory Fortin who accepted her second term as mayor following Monday’s recount and name draw.
“I’m really relived and I can’t wait to get back to work,” said Fortin.
She said to help heal the divisions in the community, the district had already started to work on better lines of communication and plans to hold more round-tables and have the community more involved in future decisions.
“You’re not going to make everybody happy all the time,” she said. It’s just not possible. But what (council has) to do is work hard, and better, for the public, and to better our communication.”
The drawing of her name followed a nearly five-hour recount of all votes cast for the five mayoral candidates who ran in the Oct. 20 civic election in Peachland. It was overseen by Burdett who approved the application for the judicially-supervised recount on Friday afternoon.
Only one ballot was challenged during the process and it was allowed by Burdett, who said she felt it was clear who the voter was trying to cast a ballot for. It was not for either Fortin or Gough, so it did not affect the outcome of the recount.
On election night, Gough appeared to have won the mayor’s job by just one vote over Fortin but that lead was erased during a recount conducted by district election staff last week. That recount left Fortin and Gough tied with 804 votes each. Those numbers stood up in the judicial recount Monday, with the three other candidates in the mayor’s race, Keith Thom, Eric Hall and Bob Henderson all far back.
Thom, Hall and Henderson were allowed to attend Monday’s judicial recount along with Fortin, Gough and their representatives but did not.
Only the candidates, their representatives, five election officials—including chief election officer Polly Palmer—Burdett, three B.C. sheriffs and members of the media were allowed to be in Peachland council chambers on Monday as the recount took place.
On Oct. 26, Burdett noted that during an actual election vote counting process, only candidates’ scrutineers and election officials are allowed to be present.
Details of the recount on Oct. 29 were not allowed to be reported under an order from Burdett. She said she did that to protect the integrity of the vote.
Gough, who also attended the judicial recount, said while he was disappointed his name was not drawn he did not plan to protest the election to the B.C. Supreme Court. Earlier he indicated he may challenge the vote because of concerns about how the election was handled.
He said ballot boxes were opened before he could be present to watch the vote count start on election night.
He said he knew that if there was to be a draw following the recount he would have a 50-50 chance of winning.
“Unfortunately my name was not drawn. But Cindy will be a good mayor,” he said.
Gough wished Fortin well and said he has no plans to run again for mayor in four years.
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