Four-year terms add up to serious commitment

Legislation that could increase municipal politician terms isn't having a bearing on whether local mayors will seek re-election.

Impending legislation that could increase municipal politician terms to four years from three isn’t having a bearing on whether Nanaimo or Lantzville’s mayors will seek re-election.

John Ruttan, mayor of Nanaimo and Regional District of Nanaimo director, said he hasn’t decided if he will run this November but he would like to be in office when two pet projects come to fruition – the conference centre hotel and the foot passenger ferry to Vancouver.

“They’re progressing along and if by the summertime, if we have commitments on one or both, I think that would certainly make it easier for me to run one more term … I’d like to be the mayor when those services are initiated. I think one more term would do it,” Ruttan said.

Lantzville Mayor Jack de Jong, also a regional district director, is also undecided at this point but said four years is a long time.

“I’m 76, so I’m getting on so the commitment now is quite a commitment … and I’m looking at RDN directors and many of them are in their 60s and so the commitment they make now is a very significant portion of their remaining life,” de Jong said.

De Jong said it might be difficult for younger politicians, too.

“Younger people that make the commitment for a three-year term, generally they’re employed and working and so to right up front say, ‘I’m committing myself for four years to a fairly significant workload,’ may be problematic,” said de Jong. “It may cause some people to think twice before putting their name out for councillor.”

Ruttan agreed, saying four-year terms might prove challenging for those entering politics, particularly younger politicians.

“To take on a four-year commitment, which requires a lot of evenings, a lot of weekends and obviously a lot during the day, is something [young politicians] may be reticent to do,” Ruttan said. “Three years, well they might say, ‘I’ll try it and see if I can do it for three years.’ Four years, they might say, ‘Whoah, maybe not right now but maybe later.’”

Adam Hawryluk, president of Young Professionals of Nanaimo, said the organization sees the value of having the younger generation represented. Members have run for office in the past, such as Chris Cathers and current Nanaimo Coun. George Anderson, and there are positives and negatives to four-year terms.

It is a tough call, according to Hawryluk, as longer terms allow for young politicians to learn what they’re doing and get their feet wet.

“At the same time, that long of a commitment for it can be a deterrent. Life changes happen in a hurry, especially at our age and our demographic,” Hawryluk said. “There’s definitely ups and downs.”

The provincial government recently announced legislation to extend municipal terms to four years will be introduced during the current sitting of the legislature. If passed, elections would be held in November of this year, then in 2018.

Nanaimo News Bulletin