Whoever gets elected this fall in the 2014 municipal elections may find themselves signing up for a four-year term in office instead of three.
On Tuesday, Coralee Oakes, minister for community, sport and cultural development, announced the provincial government was planning to introduce legislation changing local elections from a three-year to a four-year cycle, starting with the 2014 elections.
Coun. Helena Konanz, currently Penticton’s deputy mayor, said the change to four-year terms is a good idea.
“I can tell you as a new councillor that it takes a little while to get up to speed for council,” said Konanz, who was first elected in 2011.
“There is so much to learn, and by the time you are up to speed, the three-year term ends up being very short.”
Extending the term of office will apply to mayors and all elected officials serving municipalities, regional districts, parks boards and school boards.
Last year, the Union of B.C. Municipalities passed a resolution supporting extension of the term of office for elected local government officials from three to four years.
The concept also has the support of the B.C. School Trustees Association.
If the legislation passes, the next local elections after November 2014 would be October 2018, as the province previously committed to moving the date ahead by one month in response to another request from the UBCM.
“My experience as a municipal councillor convinced me that to succeed in today’s complex world, local governments need enough time to plan and complete projects that build strong, inclusive communities,” said Oakes.
One criticism of four-year terms is that it might discourage candidates not willing to make a four-year commitment. Konanz said that won’t likely happen.
“I think anyone who is willing to make a three-year commitment will also make a four-year commitment,” said Konanz.
Konanz added that besides being a better governance model, four-year terms would save money.
Dana Schmidt, the city’s corporate officer, said Penticton budgets $90,000 for the local election.
The 2013 by-election cost $31,000, she said, and was done with about half the staff required for a full election, which includes electing regional district directors and school trustees.
“I am sure it will save our municipality a lot of money, because we won’t have elections as often and I am sure it will save the province quite a bit of money,” she said. “It’s a good idea all around.”
B.C. is the only province not to have four-year terms for local elections.