On Tuesday, Ward 1 voters were suddenly wondering if they had a new candidate on the ballot. Or make that an old candidate on the ballot. As previously reported, council candidate Thai Mac left the 2022 election race a few weeks ago after some social media posts of questionable taste started to get passed around, even though he will technically remain on the ballot. So is Mac still looking for your vote?
On Tuesday morning, Mac’s campaign website was reinstated. Since his unofficial withdrawal from the race on September 8, anyone that went to the candidate’s site was greeting by a splash page with the announcement that he was no longer running. At the same time, Mac had re-activated his campaign Twitter page, which was taken down completely after he announced his withdrawal. This time though, the account was set to private; only approved users are allowed to see the page’s content now.
There was no follow-up statement from the Mac campaign about whether or not the candidate was taking back his notice of withdrawal from the election. That statement though did remain at the top of Mac’s campaign Facebook page as a pinned posted.
Fast-forward to Wednesday when there was another unusual move: Mac’s campaign website was taken down again, and replaced with the withdrawal notice splash page again. Like Tuesday, there was no further information about Mac’s campaign status on his public facing channels, his Facebook page has still not been updated since September 8, and the Twitter page remains inaccessible to anyone that isn’t an approved follower.
Guelph Politico has tried multiple times to reach Mac for a statement, but has not heard any response.
UPDATE – September 21, 7:56 pm – Mac’s website has been reinstated and the splash page has been taken down.
For Ward 1 voters, this only enhances the confusion about Mac’s status in the race. Once municipal election nominations close, there’s no formal mechanism for a candidate to leave the race and resign as a candidate aside from some very limited exceptions. “If someone dies or is no longer eligible to be seated, like they move out of the municipality, we would take steps,” explained City Clerk Stephen O’Brien.
Those steps would include changing the ballots, if they weren’t already printed, or posting signage at the polling locations. But outside the realm of those two very limited exemptions, the onus is completely on the candidate and the electorate to be aware of who’s still invested in gaining a government seat and who’s not. Also, they can still legitimately win.
“If the candidate is duly elected, and they are still eligible, then they are the candidate-elect under the Municipal Election Act,” O’Brien said. “At that point, they can either refuse to be seated, or, more likely, resign from their seat.”
According to O’Brien, there are rare instances where something like this has happened in other municipalities in Ontario. Once an elected candidate has vacated the seat, council will then be able fill that seat by appointing the person that got the next most number of votes, or by holding a by-election, which is pretty unlikely in this instance after the completion of a general election.
But all that is predicated on the candidate, who resigned after the closed of nominations but was still on the ballot, not taking the seat they were elected to hold, which is something they’re technically and legally allowed to do according to the Municipal Elections Act.
“We have to go through the process,” O’Brien said.