Task Force Recs Will Be Implemented by Government

Four More Years -- Local Elections' Task Force Report's 31 Recommendations Will Be Implemented by BC Government

You will recall that I wrote about the Local Elections' Task Force a few months ago, established in January 2010 by the BC Government in consultation with UBCM. In fact, I made a submission to the group (posted on this blog) articulating my concerns and making a few suggestions for changes to local government elections processes. The long-awaited Task Force Report was released on May 28th along with 31 recommendations for changes as to how British Columbians elect their local governments. The BC Government states that it intends to implement all 31 recommendations through legislation that will be introduced in the 2011 Spring session, just in time for the next round of local elections in November 2011.

I understand that the guiding principles and terms of reference for the Task Force were as follows:

-- Improve access, accountability, transparency, fairness and honesty
-- Provide greater consistency with provincial/federal election rules
-- Encourage flexibility so that the unique needs of local governments are reflected
-- Provide balance and efficiency

I would suggest that these guiding principles also reflected the goal of greater public and candidate participation in local elections. But chief among the Task Force recommendations is to increase the existing 3-year election term to 4 years.

While I understand the rationale behind this recommendation (need for greater continuity and more time for local governments to achieve their goals), it is also argued that a longer term may discourage potential candidates from running for local office, given the 4-year commitment. I sincerely hope not. Yes, the decision to run for local office is a big commitment and one that, if you are elected, can carry with it an almost 24/7 level of responsibility. But if ordinary citizens who are quality candidates stop running because they feel that they are unable to commit to a 4-year term, then over time, part of the thrust of the Task Force and its report may be somewhat diminished.

Let's hope that members of the public will not be discouraged from becoming actively involved in local government, as voters but more importantly, as candidates. I believe that local government is closest to the people, has the greatest potential to make a difference to the community and its residents and is one of the most important elections in which we participate. Whether you are a voter, an elected official or a volunteer, if the results of this Task Force and its recommendations encourage greater public participation in local government elections by all British Columbians, then I feel that the Task Force will have made a positive difference to our democratic process.