Coronavirus response in Ottawa throws Cumberland byelection date in the air

The outbreak of the novel coronavirus has thrown the timing of a proposed municipal byelection in Ottawa’s Cumberland ward up in the air.

The east-end ward’s former city councillor, Stephen Blais, resigned earlier in March after he was elected to the Ontario legislature.

City of Ottawa declares state of emergency over coronavirus

In late February, city clerk Rick O’Connor proposed that Ottawa city council opt to replace Blais through a byelection, preferably called for June 8.

However, the city’s focus now is on its response to the spread of COVID-19 in the national capital.

On top of that, byelections involve door-to-door campaigns and group events and health officials are demanding people stay home and away from other people to curb transmission of the virus.

“Under the current pandemic, I do not believe that the integrity of the byelection as I had suggested earlier … would be viable at this point in time,” O’Connor said during Ottawa city council’s virtual meeting on Wednesday.

Council had originally been expected to choose a course of action for the empty Cumberland seat on Wednesday: pursuing either a byelection or an appointed replacement.

Instead, councillors approved a motion to officially declare the seat vacant and to have O’Connor come back to them with an updated list of options to fill the vacancy within 60 days.

O’Connor said he would get a “very comprehensive report to council members “in the very near future.”

City of Ottawa bracing for revenues, workforce to shrink as coronavirus spreads

Councillors also approved delegating Cumberland ward issues to Ottawa’s three deputy mayors, until a new councillor has been sworn in.

Orléans Coun. Matthew Luloff said he will handle matters related to the rest of Queenswood Heights, Fallingbrook and Cardinal Creek, while Innes Coun. Laura Dudas will take over the urban area south of Innes Road, including Avalon.

Osgoode Coun. George Darouze, meanwhile, will handle issues related Cumberland’s rural areas.

© 2020 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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