Local mayors react to four-year-term legislation

The province intends to follow through with a motion sent to them by the Union of B.C. Municipalities

When voters mark their ballots in municipal elections this November, they might be giving people a council or school board seat for a four-year term instead of the current three years.

The B.C. government says it will introduce legislation during the current session to change local elections from a three-year to a four-year cycle beginning with the 2014 elections.

That announcement from Community, Sport and Cultural Development Minister Coralee Oakes was met with mixed opinions from mayors of Parksville and Qualicum Beach.

“The province is listening to local government in this case and moving faster than I anticipated,” said Parksville Mayor Chris Burger, who has not announced his intentions to seek, or not, another term in the mayor’s chair.

Burger said a resolution was passed in favour of this change at the most recent Union of B.C. Municipalities annual conference. While the resolution passed at the UBCM, Burger said he did not vote in favour of the change.

“I could make an argument both ways,” said Burger. “Because they aren’t paid at a level where they can do this as a full-time commitment, this might disuade some people from running,” said Burger. “It’s a long commitment for someone who is basically doing this as a volunteer.”

Burger also said it can take two-three years for a new councillor to get up to speed on some issues, so the additional time for a term being considered by the province could result in more effective representation in the last year or two of a four-year term.

Qualicum Beach Mayor Teunis Westbroek said he is in favour of the change to four-year terms.

“In my view, four-year terms would likely prove to be more productive for both councils and staff, and will result in a tax savings for residents,” said Westbroek, who told The NEWS this week he will seek his sixth term as mayor this November. “Except for British Columbia, it is my understanding that all provinces have made the move towards four-year terms, which indicates to me that fixed terms have been accepted by both the electorate and provincial governments.”

In a news release, the provincial government said four-year terms will give local governments more time to consult, plan and achieve community goals and also help to manage election costs.

All other Canadian provinces hold local government elections every four years.

Extending the term of office will apply to B.C.’s mayors and all  elected officials serving municipalities, regional districts, parks  boards, school boards and the Islands Trust.

The government said the move to four-year terms is part of a package of local election reforms planned for the current legislative session. The changes will modernize election campaign financing rules ahead of the 2014 local elections, said the news release.

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