On Prince Edward Island, a place where no one wants to be the mayor
The Old Mills Park in Wellington, P.E.I is seen in this undated handout photo. (Alcide Bernard)
Alex Cooke, The Canadian Press
Published Wednesday, October 31, 2018 12:40PM EDT
WELLINGTON, P.E.I. -- A small P.E.I. municipality has a big problem: no one wants to be mayor.
Wellington -- with a population of 400 -- is nestled in the heart of P.E.I.'s Acadian community, about a 20 minute drive from Summerside.
Municipal elections are scheduled for Monday, but no one stepped forward as a mayoral candidate for Wellington, despite an extended nomination deadline.
"I wanted to leave the opportunity for others this time," said Alcide Bernard, who's finishing up his fourth year as Wellington's current mayor. "It's always nice to be able to contribute to your community, and I've certainly done as best as I could to serve."
The job pays $1,600 a year.
Bernard said Wellington is "an attractive little village," but its largely francophone population is aging.
The small community also had difficulty filling five council vacancies, he said.
"When nomination dates closed the first time, there was only one councillor that re-offered, so we had to extend the nomination period by a week."
After the deadline was extended until Oct. 26, the sole remaining councillor went door-to-door until the five vacancies were filled.
Bernard said there are still councillor vacancies in 12 other P.E.I. municipalities, though Wellington is the only one without a prospective mayor.
With nobody running, provincial Communities Minister Richard Brown has said he would like to re-appoint Bernard as mayor until they can find someone else.
"I have indicated that I'd be ready, I guess, or prepared to step back in for at least a couple of years," said Bernard, adding that he could help ensure a smoother transition for the new councillors around the table in December.
But he said he previously served as a municipal councillor, and is approaching retirement age and would like to take a break.
Bernard said the province's new Municipal Government Act, which created harder nomination deadlines, might have been a factor in deterring people from running.
"I was hoping the process would allow for more people to come forward to seek the election, but it wasn't the case in Wellington," he said.
He acknowledged being a mayor was a demanding job, and noted the village's aging population could also be a factor.
"Even though Wellington has maintained about the same population over the past 20 or so years, people are aging," he said. "It's a common phenomenon, and there's probably fewer people who are able to assume leadership roles."
Bernard is confident the close-knit community will find a solution.
"I don't think it's the end of the world, and I think Wellington will get through this."