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The New Brunswick legislature in Fredericton. Image: Brad Perry

Election speculation cost taxpayers $1.7M

By Brad Perry Jan 23, 2024 | 5:42 AM

Speculation of a provincial election last year cost New Brunswick taxpayers at least $1.75 million.

That is according to a letter Kim Poffenroth, the province’s chief electoral officer, sent to a legislative standing committee last week.

“Elections New Brunswick’s mandate is to conduct free and fair elections for New Brunswickers, to facilitate compliance with electoral laws and to advance public awareness of and confidence in the electoral process,” wrote Poffenroth.

“To deliver on this mandate, Elections New Brunswick must be prepared to administer an election whenever one is called.”

Poffenroth said “highly publicized” speculation surfaced in June and September that the next provincial election, currently scheduled for Oct. 21, 2024, could be called earlier than expected.

As the chief electoral officer noted in her letter, no direction was offered to contradict the rumours.

“This left Elections New Brunswick with no choice but to accelerate preparations in order to deliver an unscheduled provincial general election.”

That included hiring and training key election officers, printing and packing training materials and supplies, purchasing equipment, renting space for returning offices and polling stations, and installing internet equipment.

Poffenroth said some of those expenses, such as equipment purchases and printing of materials, would have recurred regardless of when the election was held.

But other expenses — rental fees, training expenses and returning office staff salaries, as examples — cannot be recovered and will likely be reincurred when the election is held.

In total, Elections New Brunswick spent more than $3.27 million, which includes more than $1.75 million worth of expenses that will need to be reincurred.

“As a legislative officer, I accept that there are things over which I have control and for which I am responsible. Equally, there are those things over which others have control and for which others are responsible,” wrote Poffenroth.

“It is Elections New Brunswick’s responsibility to be ready to conduct a free and fair election no matter when it is called. We did so as responsibly and efficiently as we could.”

The chief electoral officer said she is willing to appear before the committee on procedure, privileges and legislative officers to answer questions about the expenses.