EDITORIAL: Rob Ford example is informative for B.C.

Extending municipal terms to four years removes a safety valve for constituents

The behaviour of Toronto Mayor Rob Ford has long since surpassed the realm of quirky and seen him sink to the depths to become a detriment to his community.

That said, residents of Greater Victoria can feel lucky we’re not facing a similar situation among our elected civic politicians.

While the examples have been rare around here of a rogue mayor or councillor embarrassing themselves publicly or shedding a negative light on their municipality, extending municipal terms to four years from three, as Union of B.C. Municipalities members endorsed this fall, is not a good idea.

The B.C. Community Charter states that councillors can only be disqualified from office for not taking the required oath, missing meetings for 60 days or four consecutive meetings for reasons other than ill health or by leave of council, conflict of interest where influence or inside knowledge is used inappropriately, or the unauthorized use of money.

The vast majority of councillors take seriously their oath of office and pecuniary responsibility to constituents. In the event individuals run into conflict, perceived or real, or exhibit questionable behaviour, councils are generally good at policing themselves.

When further action clearly needs to be taken, the onus falls on the individual to do the right thing. As we’ve seen with Ford and local politicians, the results can be mixed.

Former Highlands councillor Ken Brotherston stepped down from council while on trial for murder, for which he was acquitted in 2010, and did not run for re-election in 2011.

In North Saanich in 2004, then-councillor Bill Bird admitted to a non-pecuniary conflict in a rezoning application made by a business partner. Bird stayed on, but was found later in court to have benefitted financially from the decision. He was ordered to step down until the next election but did not run again, either.

With few mechanisms at our disposal to oust individuals who prompt serious consideration of termination or forced resignation, the best avenue is still the ballot box.