Skip to content

UBC political scientist calls Squamish councillor’s consequences significant

UBC’s Stewart Prest said it’s ‘unusual’ for a councillor to lose wages for a purported code of conduct breach; province says they encourage municipalities to establish codes of conduct linked to pay.
Eric Andersen web(1)
Eric Andersen.

While a municipal councillor being penalized for allegations of a code of conduct breach may be somewhat commonplace, a political scientist says it is unusual for an elected official to lose pay in such circumstances. 

The province, however, encourages municipalities to link codes of conduct to pay.

After the District of Squamish announced on Oct. 27 that Coun. Eric Andersen allegedly breached the council’s code of conduct by disclosing confidential information, one of the penalties Andersen faced was a 10% reduction in his pay. A University of British Columbia lecturer in the Department of Political Science, Stewart Prest, said this penalty was more than “a slap on the wrist.”

“It’s a significant penalty,” he explained. “It’s very unusual for any elected official to lose part of their wages.”

Squamish council’s code of conduct was implemented just about a year ago under the previous council, in September 2022. A District news release at the time called the code “one of the strongest codes of conduct in the province” and specifically pointed out that breaches were linked to council’s remuneration bylaw.

“In the absence of a provincial requirement for all local governments to adopt a code of conduct, council set the bar high for the conduct of current and future councils,” reads the 2022 release.

A spokesperson for B.C.’s Ministry of Municipal Affairs told The Squamish Chief that the office does, in fact, encourage municipalities to do so. However, they did not have an explicit number of municipalities that currently have linked codes of conduct to pay. 

“We encourage local governments to use all responsible conduct tools available to them, including linking remuneration bylaws to codes of conduct to support responsible conduct and good governance,” reads an email from the spokesperson, Alanah Connie.

“The provincial government is encouraging cities and municipalities to introduce processes like these to enhance things like transparency and accountability of councils,” said Prest.

Prest said it is an area that is continuing to be fleshed out with how best to hold municipal elected officials accountable after they are elected. Prest said there have always been political consequences, noting voters could opt not to re-elect someone if they disagreed with their decisions, for example. 

But in between elections, those mechanisms are not there, which is why codes of conduct are coming to the table.

“Now we are seeing more and more councils embrace this idea of codes of conduct trying to really maintain a level of professionalism,” he said.

Connie said that when municipal elections approach again, the codes will need to be reconsidered.

“It’s now mandatory for municipal councils and regional district boards to publicly consider establishing a new code of conduct or revising an existing one, within six months of a general local election,” she wrote.

Be that as it may, the Ministry does not keep a record of what the municipal codes say.

“The province does not formally keep a record of local government code of conduct bylaws. Local governments have a high level of local autonomy; they are democratically elected and accountable to their communities for their actions,” said Connie.

Prest said there are some risks when tying a code of conduct to an elected official’s pay, saying minor breaches shouldn’t necessarily impede the ability of an official to do their work. 

“But it is another, I suppose, tool in the toolkit of upholding councillors to account,” he said.


push icon
Be the first to read breaking stories. Enable push notifications on your device. Disable anytime.
No thanks