Delegates at the Sept. 26-30 Union of British Columbia Municipalities (UBCM) in Vancouver endorsed holding local elections every four years instead of the current three-year terms.
Six out of 10 delegates want the B.C. Liberal government to legislate the four-year terms in time for municipal elections in November 2014.
If the provincial government agrees to the change, B.C. will be the last province in Canada to move to four-year terms for local politicians.
The issue has divided urban and rural communities for years, with some rural councillors calling for shorter terms for what they say is mainly volunteer work with minimum pay.
One rural delegate said the idea comes from “professional politicians” in the Lower Mainland, where council pay is higher.
Proponents argue that four-year terms reduce turnover and would increase local election participation by being timed with provincial votes.
District of 100 Mile House Mayor Mitch Campsall says he doesn’t mind having local elections every four years.
“I look at it that every three elections we’ll save the cost of a fourth election, so it’s a saving the taxpayers money.”
While he agrees the four-year terms would be a bigger commitment for local politicians, Campsall says he doesn’t think it would deter people from running for municipal elections.
“Some people might say that it will, but I don’t think it will. I can’t see it, but that’s the way I look at things.”
The UBCM executive added another argument for the change during the debate, noting that several local mayors and councillors were elected to the B.C. legislature in May.
The executive called for direction from the province “to avoid governance conflicts, expensive byelections, long absences on council and boards and the double-dipping of salaries.”
UBCM delegates rejected the suggestion of four-year terms at its 2010 convention. It was debated and supported in 2007. Earlier motions supported the current system of elections every three years province-wide.
With files from Tom Fletcher