Former city councillor taking Coquitlam to court

Petitioner expresses anger and concern over Coquitlam’s reluctance to call a byelection

It may fall to a B.C. Supreme Court justice to decide whether or not Coquitlam residents head to the polls once or twice this year.

After being stymied in previous efforts to persuade the city to hold a byelection to fill the seat vacated by former councillor and current Port Moody-Coquitlam MP Bonita Zarrillo, Wayne Taylor and former city councillor Neal Nicholson have taken legal action.

The two Coquitlam residents filed affidavits in the Supreme Court of British Columbia this week, each arguing the municipality has a legal obligation to hold a byelection.

The affidavits noted that, following vacancies on their respective school boards in September 2021, both Prince George and Nanaimo-Ladysmith held byelections last January.

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The affidavit also includes a letter Taylor wrote to council, expressing, “both my anger and concern at Coquitlam City Council’s apparent disregard of its lawful obligations,” he wrote. “What earthly reason is there for Coquitlam Council to be delaying this decision, other than political stalling tactics or political gamesmanship?”

Discussing the issue in 2021, Mayor Richard Stewart noted that both winter weather and the pandemic would make campaigning a challenge.

Several councillors noted the approximately $200,000 cost of the byelection, typically low levels of turnout, as well as voter fatigue caused by holding two elections in the same calendar year.

Nicholson served Coquitlam as well as the city’s mayor and council with a notice of pending litigation in late February. At the time, Nicholson said he hoped the matter wouldn’t end up in court.

“I have no desire to go to court and rake muck,” he said. “I would like them to go, ‘Holy cow, these guys are serious.’”

Coquitlam’s communications department declined to comment on the matter as it is now before the court.

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