Hopefully, by the time you are reading this, Penticton MLA Dan Ashton will have announced his resignation as mayor of Penticton and chair of the Regional District of Okanagan-Similkameen.
Though he was elected to the provincial government with a solid margin in the May 14 general election, Ashton has been reticent about when he will step down as mayor. Instead, he chose to ask for a month’s extension to the leave of absence he started when he began campaigning.
Resigning earlier, or setting a date, would have allowed Penticton’s city council and staff to get on with the business of choosing a date and preparing for a byelection. As it is, a month’s time has largely been wasted.
There is nothing wrong with Ashton waiting until he is sworn in until officially resigning. The swearing-in ceremony is pretty much a formality once the vote has been finalized, but Ashton may have felt that it was fitting to synchronize the two events.
On the other hand, nothing prevented Ashton from resigning immediately after the election, or two weeks later when Elections B.C. issued the final results. Or, at any point, making a clear announcement that he would resign on June 1, or June 11 or whatever date he chose.
It is, unfortunately, typical of city management during Ashton’s tenure. Though Ashton campaigned on bringing openness and transparency to council when he first ran for mayor in 2008, far too much business has been conducted in closed meetings, exceeding the guidelines of land, labour and legal. Perhaps the best example was the changes to the formula used to calculate property tax, which was brought forward, discussed and resolved in camera, but never brought forward for public debate and vote.
We advocate a return to the committee of the whole structure, where councillors have a wider opportunity to publicly debate issues, and there are stricter, public limitations on what issues can be debated behind closed doors.