B.C. Municipalities: Local politicians support four-year terms

UBCM convention backs longer terms to match up with provincial elections, an issue that pits rural and urban communities

Local government representatives vote on a long list of resolutions at their convention in Vancouver Thursday.

Local government representatives vote on a long list of resolutions at their convention in Vancouver Thursday.

Delegates at the Union of B.C. Municipalities convention have endorsed having local elections every four years, to match up with provincial votes.

The resolution to extend terms of office from three years to four was supported by 60 per cent of voting delegates, who want the B.C. government to make the change in time for municipal elections in November 2014.

If it is enacted, B.C. would join Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Quebec, Nova Scotia, Newfoundland and Labrador, Ontario, Prince Edward Island and New Brunswick, which have four-year terms for local politicians.

The issue has divided urban and rural communities for years, with some rural councillors calling for shorter terms for what they say is mainly volunteer work with minimum pay. One rural delegate said the idea comes from “professional politicians” in the Lower Mainland, where council pay is higher.

Proponents argue that four-year terms reduce turnover and would increase local election participation by being timed with provincial votes.

The UBCM executive added another argument for the change, noting that several local mayors and councillors were elected to the B.C. legislature in May. The executive called for direction from the province “to avoid governance conflicts, expensive byelections, long absences on council and boards and the double-dipping of salaries.”

The UBCM rejected the suggestion of four-year terms at its 2010 convention. It was debated and supported in 2007. Earlier motions supported the current system of elections every three years province-wide.

 

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