B.C. government does about-face on length of office for local government

(Victoria, 2 March 2014) – IntegrityBC is calling the B.C. government on the carpet for running roughshod over its own consultation process on local government elections reform.

In its White Paper on Local Government Elections Reform released last September, the ministry stated that the “UBCM (Union of British Columbia Municipalities) subsequently passed a resolution (in 2010) to retain a three year term of office. The provincial government has agreed not to change the term of office.”

Six months later, the government did an about-face and announced they “will introduce legislation during the current legislative session to change local elections from a three-year to a four-year cycle beginning with the 2014 elections.”

In its February news release, the government noted that four-year terms was recommended by the 2010 Local Government Elections Task Force, that the UBCM passed a resolution in 2013 supporting term extension, and that the B.C. School Trustees Association supported the change.

While the UBCM did endorse a motion at its 2013 convention to increase the term of office from three to four years, the organization has been all over the map on the issue.

In 2010, the UBCM rejected a motion to extend the term of office. In 2007, it endorsed extending the term. In 2006, it rejected the motion it later endorsed in 2007. In 2003, it rejected two-year staggered terms and three-year “all-at-once” terms. And in 1986, it endorsed a three-year term but annual elections if local residents demanded it.

IntegrityBC notes that while the UBCM and B.C. School Trustees are stakeholders on the issue, they are not the only stakeholders. By releasing its White Paper stating that the term of office was not going to be extended and then doing exactly that six months later, the government effectively excluded the most important stakeholder of all – the public.

“It may come as a shock to the government, but generally speaking the public is not enamoured with politicians at the moment and they deserved to have their say on this issue,” said IntegrityBC executive director Dermod Travis. “To have this done in the dark of night with a stroke of the pen stripped them of that right.”

The organization noted that the only thing that seems to have changed between the release of the government’s White Paper in September and the government’s change of heart in February, is the vote of less than 1,950 local politicians at the UBCM convention that took place last September.

“Frankly, it’s a pretty slim basis to justify a decision that should require more thought and consultation and – if done at all – be part and parcel of other reforms to the B.C. Community Charter,” said Travis.

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For more information:

Dermod Travis, Executive Director