With Incumbent Stephanie McGowan now residing in Courtenay and Mayor Russ Arnott’s candidacy uncertain, the Comox Town Council will look quite different after Oct. 15.

THE WEEK: Who’s running for mayor of Comox? And Elections BC issues fine

Sep 2, 2022 | Commentary, Elections 2022, Latest Feature, Politics

By George Le Masurier

This article was updated on Sept. 6 to include comments from Stephen Blacklock.

With just one week left for candidates to declare their intentions, the big local government news heading into the long weekend involves the uncertainty surrounding who’s running for Comox Town Council and, more specifically, whether incumbent mayor Russ Arnott will seek a second term.

There have been social media posts from family members that suggest Arnott is not well and some community members confirm that he hasn’t looked well recently. Decafnation has reached out to the mayor via email, but we have not received a response. Some councillors have reached out as well without any response.

We can all empathize with someone who struggles with physical health problems and the complications that normally arise for their work and family. That is difficult to manage in any circumstance.

Arnott’s situation is particularly awkward and probably extra stressful for him because his health problems, whatever they may be, are happening during the local government office filing deadline, which allows him only days to decide whether he’s well enough to serve another four years.

That uncertainty has a trickle-down effect on other candidates who might choose to seek the mayoralty rather than a council position if Arnott steps aside. If he does, we would expect Ken Grant to file for the mayor position and he might be challenged by one of the other incumbent councillors, Maureen Swift, Nicole Minions, Alex Bissinger or Jonathan Kerr.

We’ve heard there was a large turnout of potential candidates and interested citizens at the Comox Council candidate information night this week, so it appears voters will have lots of choices.

And, of course, we wish Arnott peace and clarity of mind as he works through this heart-wrenching time.



Staying with Comox Council, Decafnation has learned that Elections BC issued a monetary penalty on June 9 to Stephen Blacklock, a candidate in last November’s Comox Town Council byelection, for a violation of the Local Elections Campaign Financing Act (LECFA).

Blacklock was fined $1,115.52 for “exceeding campaign period expense limit contrary to s. 68.02 LECFA.” It is the second largest penalty imposed by Elections BC in the last four years.

According to public records made available to us, it’s the first time Elections BC has sanctioned a Comox Valley candidate for a breach of the laws it administers.

Blacklock told Decafnation on Sept. 6 that he received a campaign invoice after the by-election that was “much higher than expected.” Rather than “haggle and fudge my way into compliance,” Blacklock said he simply paid the Elections BC fine. 

Elections BC (EBC) is “the independent, non-partisan Office of the Legislature responsible for administering electoral processes in British Columbia in accordance with the Election Act, Local Elections Campaign Financing Act, Recall and Initiative Act, and Referendum Act.”

But in terms of municipal elections, EBC is responsible for only monitoring campaign financing and advertising regulations. The Ministry of Municipal Affairs regulates local government election

According to Elections BC Communication Director Andrew Watson there have been 58 valid complaints since 2018 about candidates’ violations of advertising or financing regulations. Most were related to campaign financing and only a few resulted in disciplinary action.

“Every complaint is unique and we investigate every complaint we receive,” Watson told Decafnation.

He said a complaint could result, if verified, in a monetary penalty, a criminal prosecution or a warning letter. The complaints can take months or even years to investigate and adjudicate, but the EBC tries to conclude them as soon as possible.

“We don’t want to cause any harm unnecessarily. So we don’t act until we have all the facts and have conducted a fair process,” Watson said. “We are neutral and non-partisan.”

The EBC considers a number of factors before taking action on verified complaints, including whether the violation gave the candidate a material advantage.

Watson said the Blacklock monetary penalty was comparatively large because the law at the time stipulated the fine for overspending the expense limit was two times the over-spend. Since the start of 2022, the EBC has been given more discretion to levy fines for overspending up to a maximum of two times the over-spend.



The websites for our four local governments display a list of candidates as their file their nomination papers. Here are links to each website so you can follow along as candidates announce.

For Courtenay, go here.

For Cumberland, go here.

For Comox, go here.

For the Comox Valley Regional District, go here.

As of noon today, only incumbent Leslie Baird had filed for another term as mayor of Cumberland and only Erik Eriksson had filed for mayor of Courtenay. Edwin Grieve in Area C will have a new challenger in Matthew Ellis. And it appears newcomer Shannon Aldinger will seek one of the Courtenay seats on the District 71 School Board.

It is curious that the websites of Cumberland, Courtenay and the three electoral areas at the regional district show the names of candidates who have filed, while the Town of Comox website shows that no candidates have filed to date. UPDATE: Candidates who have filed started showing up on the Comox website late this afternoon.



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