Burnaby councillors support four-year terms

Burnaby Coun. Nick Volkow -
Burnaby Coun. Nick Volkow
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Burnaby councillor Nick Volkow was among the 60 per cent of delegates at the Union of B.C. Municipalities convention last week that voted in favour of four-year terms for municipal politicians.

The motion called for the period between elections be extended from three years to four starting with the next civic vote in November 2014.

Such a move would still require the approval of the provincial government. If approved, B.C. would join every other province in Canada to have four-year terms for local politicians.

As it is, for a new councillor, Volkow said facetiously, the first year "it takes you that long to find where the washrooms are in the building." By year two, they'd just be developing an understanding of how the system works at city hall, then by the third year they're already trying to get re-elected, possibly affecting some voting decisions.

Less frequent elections would also be less expensive for city taxpayers, Volkow said. And for municipal politicians who successfully make the jump into provincial or federal politics and get elected as MLAs, aligning the timing of civic and once-every-four-years senior government elections could reduce the need for expensive by-elections.

Volkow said that there was less support for longer terms among politicians from rural communities who are paid "very nominal" amounts for their council work compared to their counterparts in urban municipalities.

He suggested one solution could be to adopt the model of Saskatchewan, where politicians in urban communities have the longer term while those in rural areas have only two-year terms.

Coun. Pietro Calendino did not attend the UBCM convention, but was also supportive of four-year terms, largely for the "huge cost savings" involved.

It costs Burnaby about $1 million to run an election, Calendino said.

While he stressed it doesn't really affect Burnaby council, on which the Burnaby Citizens Association enjoys a monopoly, he agreed that four years would give municipal councillors an extra year to vote how they see fit without worrying about hurting their re-election chances.

As it is, in the year leading up to an election, "like the provincial government or the federal government they'd make decisions that are not necessarily for the common good."

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