B.C. municipal politicians may be chained to their civic duties for an extra year.
On Thursday (Sept. 19), officials at the Union of British Columbia Municipalities (UBCM) annual convention passed a resolution to extend council terms from three to four years. B.C. is the only Canadian province that doesn’t offer four-year municipal terms, Squamish Coun. Patricia Heintzman said, noting provincial and federal officials serve four-year terms.
“This has been an issue for a long time,” Heintzman said.
In 2008, delegates at the UBCM convention defeated the same motion — 354 against and 280 in favour. The vote pitted rural government leaders against urban politicians. Most of the motion’s backers were from the Lower Mainland, where the cost of mounting an election campaign is high and there’s a bigger candidate pool.
In contrast, rural elections are cheaper, but fewer people are available to run for office.
The first year in city hall is often a period of catch-up for councillors, Heintzman said, who’s also the Lower Mainland Local Government Association (LMLGA) president. While it takes that long to get new members up to speed, by the third year, officials sometimes make questionable decisions on the cusp of the municipal elections, she added.
Lengthening the municipal term would eliminate election overlap with other levels of government. Twenty per cent of politicians who run in the provincial election also wear municipal hats, Heintzman noted.
Pemberton Mayor Jordan Sturdy faced the repercussions of the provincial vote held last May and municipal election in November 2011. After winning the West Vancouver-Sea to Sky MLA seat, Sturdy was faced with the prospect of a costly Pemberton by-election. Instead, he plans to carry on as mayor until the end of 2013, avoiding a by-election.
It’s difficult to accomplish real change within three years, Coun. Susan Chapelle said. On the other hand, the longer term would add one more year before voters can turf politicians out of office, she noted.
The motion is headed to the province, where officials are expected to make a decision on the resolution by next year.