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BC Local Government Elections Task Force Composition Disappointing

December 7, 2009 D. Collier Comments off

At the 2009 Union of BC Municipalities Convention, the BC Liberals announced the creation of an Local Government Elections Task Force charged with making changes to the municipal electoral process.

Last Friday, the composition of that task force was announced, and I’ve got to say I’m really disappointed.

First of all, the 6 person task force is composed of 6 politicians: 3 provincial and 3 municipal. One would think that a Task Force dealing with this subject matter would have at least 1 person that has had the responsibility of organizing an election, not just competed in one.

Secondly, out of the 3 provincial politicians, 3 are BC Liberals. Again, one would think that this Task Force would have at least 1 BC New Democrat, for the reasons that: 1) the election process is supposed to be non-partisan, and 2) one would think that having a different perspective for a person who has run in an election would be useful.

Honestly, for a political party which I will admit has made positive forward strides in the area of municipal government in the past, I really expected a better task force from the BC Liberals, not this overly political, overly partisan group.

BC Liberals Promise New Local Government Elections Act At UBCM

October 2, 2009 D. Collier Comments off

One of the more interesting announcements at this year’s Union of BC Municipalities convention is the BC Liberals’ pledge to create a new Local Government Elections Act based on the recommendation of a Local Government Elections Taskforce. Considering that discussions relating to the reform of municipal election rules have been increasing brought into the public radar, now is a good time to work on and pass new legislation on the issue.

One of the most solid proposals for this Act is to make the Chief Electoral Officer of Elections BC the independent administrator, supervisor, and enforcer of a common elections process, which at my first glance sound like a good idea.

Beyond that, it seems that most of the contents of the Act are on the table to be discussed.

For instance, there is to be a discussion on whether to expand the term of municipal elected officials from 3 years to 4 years. This issue has been discussed for a while, and 4 municipalities even had a referendum on the issue, in which 3 out of 4 had voters support the idea. I’m still not sure if I’m for or against it, myself.

Another discussion is about campaign finance reform.  Considering at present municipal campaigns can use an unlimited amount of funds coming from anywhere, some changes to make the system more fair are needed. I believe that a solid maximum limit spent on a campaign is needed; the limit could be a certain amount of dollars per voter in order to it to make sense for both small and large municipality. I also think that corporations and unions should be barred from making campaign donations.

The BC Liberals also want to discuss giving the vote to business and industry than pay property taxes within the city. I disagree with doing so; a municipal election should be between local citizens and the candidates, not non-present “artificial persons.”

I’ll end this post with something that’s probably not on the table but should be: the method in which we vote. Right now, municipal elections use a plurality at-large system, in which the top X (X being council size) placing candidates win a place in council. This encourages people to “plump” their vote, that is, to vote for the candidate(s) than they really like to see win and not vote for anybody else, because voting for a candidate one sort of likes may give that candidate that one vote needed to beat the candidate that one really likes. We should look at preferential systems of voting which are currently being used in Scottish municipalities.

Suggesting Positive Solutions: Carole James At UBCM

October 2, 2009 D. Collier Comments off

The Union of BC Municipalities’ annual convention is always one of the biggest shows in BC Politics; politicians of all stripes and levels tend to announce new policies here. BC New Democrat leader Carole James wasn’t an exception; besides highlighting the fact that the BC Liberals cannot be trusted, she announced five BC New Democrat policies:

  1. Protecting the fishery by involving local and First Nation governments while moving to closed containment.
  2. Restoring control of Translink to elected officials instead of officials appointed by the provincial government.
  3. Moving BC’s fixed election date to the fall. This has actually been on the radar for some time, as the current May fixed election date causes major problems with setting the provincial budget in election years. Right now, in an election year, a budget is passed in February, with nobody knowing if that budget will actually be implemented because of a change of government (or because the current government is lying to improve their chances of getting reelected.) Then after an election a budget update has to be created. A fall election would cut down these problems.
  4. Creating an Independent Provincial Budget Officer. Considering that all BC governments from Social Credit to New Democrats to Liberals have manipulated BC budgets to make the opposition look bad and themselves look good, an Independent Budget Officer is long overdue and would ensure that British Columbians are receiving the correct figures.
  5. Establishing a Green Fund. The Green Fund would provide stimulus to the hard-hit rural communities of BC by investing in the implementation of Green technologies and the expansion of mass transit. However, the $150 million a year used to fund this program has to come from somewhere; therefore the BC New Democrats would cancel unimplemented corporate tax cuts. Considering that the BC Government is suffering from reductions in revenue, it makes little sense to further reduce that revenue even more at this point. The Green Fund not only demonstrates part of the BC New Democrats’ environmental vision, it also shows that the they are willing to make tough decisions based on economic realities.

My biggest concern about this speech is the “Us versus Them” tone that it takes. It seems to me that it appeals more to the current BC New Democrat base rather than expanding it. Considering that the BC New Democrats have been receiving above 40% in the last two elections, the priority needs to be obtaining the last few percentage points needed to win government, not working on the already strong base.

But overall, this speech marks a small first step in providing a positive vision for British Columbians that follows the economic and political realities. Of course, much more work needs to be done; a few policies does not make a vision. But there is always the 2009 BC NDP convention.

A Willingness To Extend Municipal Terms To 4 Years?

November 16, 2008 D. Collier 2 comments

In those places that have 3 year municipal terms, there seems to be a demand from councils to lengthen those terms to 4 years.

Now, results from four BC municipal referenda show that there might be support public support for such a move. 3 out of the 4 referenda gave support for such a move.

Now, these referenda came about because the provincial government told municipalities to consult with their citizens on this matter. Since there were only four municipalities that actually took them up on the offer, I doubt that the government is going to take any action to lengthen municipal terms.

The interesting question, however, is what is going to be the reaction of other BC municipalities on this matter? Will they now hold their own consultative referenda on this matter? I think that the results of these four referendum might encourage municipalities to do just that.

termchart

Putting Some Humour In Municipal Elections

October 30, 2008 D. Collier Comments off

While most people running for council tend to take their elections way too seriously, the Vancouver Coalition of Progressive Electors party has released two rather funny political ads. While I’m not sure if these ads by themselves would garner much votes, I’m sure they would attract enough attention for people to have a closer look at their platform.

P.S.: The “NPA” guy in the second ad has a BEARD!

Categories: Local Government