EDITORIAL: No advantage to longer terms

Province's decision to extend time between civic elections made by politicians for politicians

This week’s announced increase to term lengths for municipal politicians and school trustees smacks of politicians helping their own.

We see few benefits to moving civic elections to every four years from three, other than better alignment with provincial and federal elections.

The majority of work done at a local level is undertaken by municipal staff as it is – not elected officials.

That said, the province’s main justification for the change  – “It provides opportunities for local government officials to understand their projects and to carry them through” – doesn’t jibe with the reality of local government.

When a decision of this magnitude is made with no public consultation, we’re left wondering who this change truly benefits. And if it’s not the average B.C. resident, the province made the wrong decision.

This move chips away at our democratic rights. Currently, the only power we have to formally pass judgment on our elected officials is an election.

By having votes less frequently, we’re losing opportunities to hold our local politicians accountable for the decisions they make.

While the extra-curricular behaviour of Mayor Rob Ford may be an extreme example, it has left many Torontonians wondering what powers the public has to remove him from office.

The silver lining with B.C.’s latest announcement is a promise to study legislative amendments that would make booting problem politicians more feasible.

It’s no secret public engagement in municipal politics is low and voter turnout abysmal. Many communities also struggle to find quality municipal candidates. We fear this change will exacerbate both problems. A lot can change in four long years. We don’t want to see good would-be politicians deterred by the time commitment of working a low-paying, largely thankless job.

The only people we’ve seen advocating for extending the term are politicians themselves, not the public. That’s a sign most British Columbians have been, at the very least, content with the status quo.

If it ain’t broke, why fix it?

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