EDITORIAL: Ballot options in Parksville Qualicum Beach

Four-year terms and increased size of Qualicum Beach council are two other things to consider when you vote

Making your mark beside a candidate’s name isn’t the only thing to think about when you get to mark your ballot on Nov. 15.

While you get no say in this, terms for councillors, mayors, directors and trustees are now four years, up from the three we’ve seen for many decades.

There is some sense to this. With three-year terms, we’ve seen newly-elected people spend a year getting up to speed on how things work and a year campaigning, leaving just one year in the middle for concentration on real issues. It’s not always like that, but it happens.

In addition to choosing a mayor, councillors and school board trustees, voters in Qualicum Beach will have a question on their ballot asking if they believe their council should be expanded from five members (four councillors and the mayor) to seven members (six councillors and the mayor).

This is being called a “non-binding public opinion question,” although we believe it would be difficult for the new council to ignore the results, especially if the numbers clearly lean one way or another. Knowing Qualicum Beach politics as we do, expect a long argument over what defines “clearly lean.”

The new council can pass a bylaw that would ensure two new council seats are added to the ballot for the October, 2018 civic election, provided the bylaw passes six months before that October, 2018 election.

Outgoing Parksville Mayor Chris Burger is in a unique position to comment on this issue. He has served on councils of five and seven, and has served on councils in both Qualicum Beach and Parksville.

He has told us he favours the seven-member format. He says it is more difficult with seven people at the table to create camps that vote in blocks, which forces more consensus, more give and take and it may also force councillors to do more homework.

The cost to taxpayers, perhaps $30,000/year, could be worth the benefits. Qualicum Beach has cut its staff to the bone in recent years, so maybe the money is there. And people have bemoaned the 3-2 splits we’ve seen on recent councils (it’s not an exclusive phenomenon of this most recent council), so maybe this is a good option for this town.

— Editorial by John Harding