New four year term not popular with Haida Gwaii politicians

  • Mar. 10, 2014 1:00 p.m.

For island councillors and mayors, the BC government’s decision to extend local election terms to four years is understandable, but not ideal for small communities.”Personally, I don’t like it, but I understand what they’re doing,” said Port Clements Mayor Wally Cheer. “It seems to me it’s more appropriate for urban areas where elections are expensive. It’s not so much an issue in smaller communities where we don’t incur a lot of expenses to run,” he added.Masset mayor Andrew Merilees said that when they voted on this issue at the Union of Municipalities of British Columbia (UBCM) meeting, there was a divide where larger communities wanted four years and smaller communities wanted three.”I make $7,000 a year and councillors make half that. In larger centers, council is remunerated more heavily. Four year terms mean an extra year of paid employment and more time to complete their mandate,” he said.Mayors and councillors in small communities can’t rely on their council income alone, and Mr. Merilees pointed out that mayors in the past have lost jobs and had to leave their position prematurely in order to seek work off-islands.”Truly, it is a volunteer position. It probably costs you more than you make. And, it’s a really big commitment,” said Carol Kulesha, mayor of Queen Charlotte.Charlotte councillor Kris Olsen worries that the longer terms might discourage young people from putting their name forward because they’re often in a position where their lives, families and jobs are variable.Another concern for the four year terms takes the public’s perspective.”As a person in a municipality, if you have a lousy council, you know they’ll be moving out in three years time and you get to re-elect. But, in a four year system, you’re stuck with them one more year,” said Mr. Merilees.There is some benefit to the longer time in office, said Ms Kulesha.”I wouldn’t want to discourage someone from running. The first year is a tremendous learning experience. In the second year, you’re starting to get your stride. The advantage of four years is that you have a couple more years ahead of you,” she said.Charlotte councillor Greg Martin is just happy they didn’t choose two year terms, because then communities are constantly in election mode. Even so, he said he’d have preferred if they left it at three years.Mr. Cheer summed it up well, “Three years is a long time, but four years is even longer.”

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