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BC Liberals Promise New Local Government Elections Act At UBCM

October 2, 2009

One of the more interesting announcements at this year’s Union of BC Municipalities convention is the BC Liberals’ pledge to create a new Local Government Elections Act based on the recommendation of a Local Government Elections Taskforce. Considering that discussions relating to the reform of municipal election rules have been increasing brought into the public radar, now is a good time to work on and pass new legislation on the issue.

One of the most solid proposals for this Act is to make the Chief Electoral Officer of Elections BC the independent administrator, supervisor, and enforcer of a common elections process, which at my first glance sound like a good idea.

Beyond that, it seems that most of the contents of the Act are on the table to be discussed.

For instance, there is to be a discussion on whether to expand the term of municipal elected officials from 3 years to 4 years. This issue has been discussed for a while, and 4 municipalities even had a referendum on the issue, in which 3 out of 4 had voters support the idea. I’m still not sure if I’m for or against it, myself.

Another discussion is about campaign finance reform.  Considering at present municipal campaigns can use an unlimited amount of funds coming from anywhere, some changes to make the system more fair are needed. I believe that a solid maximum limit spent on a campaign is needed; the limit could be a certain amount of dollars per voter in order to it to make sense for both small and large municipality. I also think that corporations and unions should be barred from making campaign donations.

The BC Liberals also want to discuss giving the vote to business and industry than pay property taxes within the city. I disagree with doing so; a municipal election should be between local citizens and the candidates, not non-present “artificial persons.”

I’ll end this post with something that’s probably not on the table but should be: the method in which we vote. Right now, municipal elections use a plurality at-large system, in which the top X (X being council size) placing candidates win a place in council. This encourages people to “plump” their vote, that is, to vote for the candidate(s) than they really like to see win and not vote for anybody else, because voting for a candidate one sort of likes may give that candidate that one vote needed to beat the candidate that one really likes. We should look at preferential systems of voting which are currently being used in Scottish municipalities.

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