Waters: Four-year terms just make sense for municipal politicians

Longer terms give more time to deal with learning curve and to get things done before seeking re-election.

After six years, it seems provincial and municipal politicians are finally in agreement that local government terms should be extended to four years from the current three.

It’s a move that is long overdue and makes sense.

Last week, municipal politicians meeting at the Union of B.C. Municipalities convention in Vancouver, voted once again to support the move to four-year terms, a stance they took in 2007 but backtracked on three years later.

Six years ago, the province was not on the same page and nixed the idea.

Since then, Victoria has come around and even wanted to make the change in 2010. But that was when the municipalities stalled the idea.

Now, with both sides singing from the same song sheet, a move may be made in time for the next round of civic elections, in 2014. If not, it will have to wait until 2017.

Four-year terms make a lot of sense from a variety of different angles.

Fewer elections mean money saved for cash-strapped municipalities, regional districts and school districts. Most other provinces in Canada already have four-year civic terms and longer terms will give rookie politicians more time to properly implement programs once they have handled the steep learning curve associated with assuming political office.

In the past, civic politicians have bemoaned the fact that it takes close to a year to learn the ropes, leaving them little more than a year to get things done before thinking about re-election.

When the issue of the four-year-terms came up again here three years ago, it received a luke warm response, in part because of concerns about the larger commitment required by those running for public office.

But do we really want people making civic decisions to only be interested in a single three-year term?

Municipal councils, regional boards and boards of education need long-term vision and while there is nothing compelling a politician to seek re-election, four-year mandates do allow more time to properly learn on the job and implement policy in a proper manner, even if the politician in question plans to call it quits after just one term.

The current three-year terms have worked up to now but, like anything, it’s time to evolve.

The additional year should not be considered onerous and if it is, the person running for office needs to reconsider if they really should be running at all.

It’s time B.C.’s most visible and available politicians made the change for the betterment of the people they serve.

Alistair Waters is the Capital News’ assistant editor.



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