Local leaders at UBCM support online voting

Parksville to be included in Resort Municipality Initiative study

In an online vote, local leaders endorsed online voting.

The Union of B.C. Municipalities resolution was passed with just 51 per cent of delegates — who cast their ballots using an electronic voting system — supporting the motion to enable online voting in time for the next local election in 2018.

“We’ve got to come into the 21st century,” said Parksville Mayor Marc Lefebvre, who voted with the slim majority. “I think it’s great.”

Regional District of Nanaimo chair Joe Stanhope echoed Lefebvre. “Things are changing faster than we know how. So, yeah, we have to keep pace.”

RDN manager of administrative services Jacquie Hill explained online voting would provide the benefit of convenience and accessibility for electors and has the potential to bolster voter turnout.

“In addition, an online voting system has potential to reduce the costs of election administration and increase efficiency over the long term,” Hill said in an e-mail to The NEWS Friday.

However, she noted risks with online voting include security and access issues for those who don’t have access to the technology.

“There are examples of the successful operation of online voting in other jurisdictions that suggest that there would be an improvement in the electoral process for both electors and the election administrators,” said Hill.

The close vote suggests the issue is having trouble gaining traction. A similar UBCM motion in 2011 passed by a two-to-one margin.

Since then, an independent panel struck by the provincial government concluded last year that the risks outweigh the benefits, and recommended that any move to online voting be limited to voters with specific accessibility challenges.

That report by B.C.’s chief electoral officer also found no evidence of a significant increase in voter turnout in other jurisdictions that have adopted online voting.

Other highlights from UBCM:

• Qualicum Beach Mayor Teunis Westbroek said “we didn’t come back with any doctors but we got the ball rolling.” He told The NEWS he and other representatives from Qualicum Beach and Parksville met with the Ministry of Health to discuss the shortage of health care professionals in the area. Follow-up meetings were scheduled.

• Lefebvre said he had a positive meeting with Premier Christy Clark about the Nov. 21 potable water referendum, which he called “illogical.” Lefebvre voiced concern that if the referendum fails, Island Health will force the city to build a water treatment system anyways. While he admitted there wasn’t much hope that something would be done before the upcoming referendum, the province promised to look into it.

• Parksville may be part of an upcoming Resort Municipality Initiative study, according to Lefebvre.

“What they are doing right now is regrouping and forming a task force to look at the Resort Municipality Initiative designation to see what the future of the program will be,” he said. “Parksville will be included in that study.”

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