Appointments now independent of government
Joe Webb (left) is welcomed by Lt.-Gov. J.J. Grant as the new returning officer for Cumberland North.
HALIFAX – Retired school teacher Joe Webb has officially been sworn in as Cumberland North’s new returning officer.
Webb was appointed by Lt.-Gov. J.J. Grant during a ceremony last week at Province House in Halifax. The oath of office was administered by Nova Scotia chief electoral officer Rick Temporale.
Changes to the Nova Scotia Elections Act introduced last year led to the appointments being made independent of government for the first time
The primary duty of returning officers is to run electoral events in their electoral districts. In addition to those many and varied tasks, during an electoral period, returning officers must also be free to participate in a variety of activities between electoral events. They receive briefings on any changes to legislation and training in new procedures. They also participate in special projects and consultations between elections, and participate at technical development sessions.
Appointed for a 10-year period, a returning officer must have broad management experience and a variety of skills. The work is diverse, challenging and rewarding, and, by its nature, it is impartial and non-partisan. Elections Nova Scotia has been conducting operational training of prospective returning officers over the past few months in preparation for these appointments.
Speaking during the inauguration, Michael V. Coyle, chairman of the Nova Scotia Election Commission, said the public’s trust in the integrity of the democratic electoral process requires the work of electoral officials to seen as fair and impartial.
“That does not mean, of course, that previous returning officers were anything less than fair or impartial,” Coyle said. “It simply means that candidates for office, their campaign teams, the political parties and, most importantly, the public in the communities you serve, can now have greater confidence in your integrity and impartiality as returning officers. It brings a whole new level of prestige and distinction to the merit-based appointments that were are celebrating today.”