Terms of endearment

Another Urban British Columbia Municipalities convention has come and gone

Another UBCM convention has come and gone. The one that took place in Vancouver last week was no different from its predecessors, dishing out a slew of resolutions proposed by the elected officials nearest and dearest to us.

Among the many courses of action endorsed, from provincial revenue-sharing to killing Canadian geese that are fouling beaches, was extending the term of office for local politicians from three years to four — a motion that’s been debated for years.

Proponents of the resolution — as it turns out, 60 per cent of UBCM delegates — want the B.C. government to make the change before municipal voters take to the polls in November 2014 for the regularly scheduled local elections.

Given there’s no fall legislative session, this resolution won’t be acted on any time soon, but, if eventually tabled and passed, it would lessen the number of times an already-disinterested voting public has to take to the polls and hopefully bring the dismal muncipal voter turnout (29.51 per cent in 2011) on par with the provincial one (52 per cent this past May) .

But, while regarded as a positive development for local politicians in urban centres where the competition is stiffer and the rate of pay is much higher, rural voters may find themselves stuck with an unpopular mayor or counsellor elected by acclamation for an additional year.

This move could also potentially engender complacency among local politicians who feel less pressure to act quickly over a longer term. Furthermore, at a level of government where the effects of decision-making are more immediately felt than at the provincial and federal levels, should community members not feel happy with their council’s dynamic and overall performance, they will be forced to wait an additional year before exercising their voter control.

Therefore, arguments for marrying municipal and provincial election dates should also include extending B.C.’s recall legislation — whereby voters have the right to vote between elections for the removal of their MLA — to cover mayors, councillors and school board trustees.