The Town of Qualicum Beach council discusses the proposal to increase council size from five to seven members. (Submitted photo)

The Town of Qualicum Beach council discusses the proposal to increase council size from five to seven members. (Submitted photo)

Qualicum Beach council again discusses proposal to move from 5 members to 7

Council to consider enacting a bylaw or go through referendum

The Town of Qualicum Beach is again exploring the possibility of increasing its council size from five to seven members.

A staff report was presented at the regular council meeting on Jan. 12 that includes the legislative requirements and impacts the proposed change will have.

A recommendation was also included to direct staff to prepare a bylaw, to publish and communicate materials that include frequently asked questions document, and also to invite the public to provide feedback at the Feb. 9 committee of the whole meeting.

Coun. Scott Harrison preferred to have the matter included in the ballot in the coming municipal elections. However, he agreed all materials and information on increasing council’s size be disseminated to the public to help them make informed decisions.

Coun. Anne Skipsey wanted a bylaw established sooner. She referred to what council went through last year when they lost Adam Walker, who became the MLA for Parksville-Qualicum, and Coun. Robert Filmer, who went on a two-month medical leave.

“We saw the vulnerability of a five-member council over this term,” said Skipsey. “And that’s the minimum permissible and I think a larger council would be a better representation for the community.”

Skipsey also indicated if the town was to go ahead with this plan, the total stipend of the four councillors would be divided by six.

“It shouldn’t be a huge additional expense,” said Skipsey. “That should be clear in any of the materials that are provided. I think we would do a better job of serving our community.”

In 2008 and 2014, the town sought input from electors on the ballot during the general local election and twice the majority voted against adding more members to council.

Mayor Brian Wiese understands why this issue is important but he prefers to have it go through a referendum.

“If it didn’t get knocked down so badly in the last two times, I’d be a bit more apt to entertain it,” said Wiese. “But it got put down significantly about 70-75 per cent. My view is I prefer that it go through a referendum and hold a byelection later.”

READ MORE: Qualicum Beach residents want town council to consider adding extra voices

Coun. Robert Filmer didn’t favour divvying up the stipend as it sets council back to what each member was earning four years ago, when they made sure council members receive an actual living wage.

“When you look at how many local governments followed suit after we did that and how many decided that this make sense,” said Filmer. “If we do it all together it sends a bigger message and that’s exactly what ended up happening. Many local governments ended up following. So I don’t agree with combining and putting everything back down because it takes away that exact message that we tried to fight for three-and-a-half years ago.”

Harrison echoed Filmer’s sentiments.

“With the requirements on your life and the cost of living around here, it’s really hard to take on the amount of time to do this job well,” said Harrison.

Council endrosed staff recommendation but will decide later whether to establish the bylaw now or put in through referendum.

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