Four-year terms largely welcomed by local government

North Cowichan councillor Barb Lines says she can see the benefits of four-year terms for councillors. -
North Cowichan councillor Barb Lines says she can see the benefits of four-year terms for councillors.
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Like most things, there can be good and bad in change.

But Cowichan’s elected government leaders are mostly seeing the plusses of a decision to extend municipal terms from three to four years.

“I think it’s actually going to be a real good thing,” said Duncan councillor Joe Thorne, who’s currently serving his second term.

“When I first came into council, it took me about a year to fully understand what I was doing and if you really want to take care of a community, you really have to understand it. If we didn’t have the passion and commitment, we wouldn’t be doing it.”

North Cowichan councillor Barb Lines agreed.

“I think in the terms of a new person coming in and getting up to speed, I think it’s great,” she said. “I think it’s not really until your second year when you understand the issues deeply.”

Minister of Community, Sport and Cultural Development Coralee Oakes made the announcement Tuesday she will introduce legislation to extend the local government terms and that will take effect in time for elections this fall.

Oakes said the change comes after the Union of B.C. Municipalities supported it at its convention last September. The issue has been debated many times and been divisive over the years, with some rural politicians arguing against extending the commitment for jobs with little pay.

Lines wondered for some political servants if a four-year term was too much of commitment.

“I’m hoping it won’t discourage people from running,” she said.

Lines, who’s currently serving her second term, also sees the bonus in savings with less money spent on elections.

Thorne also liked the idea of more time to move important projects forward.

“The reason why provinces across Canada have moved to four years is it provides greater certainty in communities to move those very important projects forward, things such as infrastructure improvements,” Oakes said. “It provides opportunities for local government officials to understand their projects and to carry them through.”

The change would mean the next municipal election after 2014 would be held in 2018, on a schedule that follows provincial elections by one year. Oakes said there was no intent to avoid having both elections at the same time, and she is acting in response to the UBCM’s vote to go ahead.

Extending the term of office will apply to B.C.’s mayors and all elected officials serving municipalities, regional districts, parks boards, school boards and the Islands Trust.

—with files from Tom Fletcher

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