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UBCM rejects four-year election terms

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Delegates to the Union of British Columbia Municipalities (UBCM) convention voted Thursday to keep municipal election terms at three years.

Slightly more than 350 people voted against a motion to extend the election terms to four years, while 280 delegates supported the proposal.

This is a wider voter margin than a standing vote on Wednesday, where 244 voted for the motion and 268 voted against. Those results were immediately contested and the motion was put to a ballot vote Thursday morning.

Election terms have been a contentious issue within the UBCM in the past. A motion to move to four years was defeated in 2009. It was brought up again after an electoral task force recommended in May that B.C. municipalities follow the rest of Canada's lead and move to four-year terms.

Vancouver Councilor Ellen Woodsworth said she was surprised that the provincial government kicked the issue back to the municipalities at all.

"It just seems like the province doesn't want to deal with the issue," she said.

She spoke in favour of the motion on Wednesday, saying that it would allow for more stability and said she was disappointed with Thursday's results.

"I thought it was very divisive," she said. "I think we used up a huge amount of time that we could have been voting on other things," said Woodsworth.

The divisions seemed to split urban and rural communities. Smaller community leaders spoke out against the motion Wednesday saying that it's difficult enough attracting people to commit to three-year terms.

Supporters of the motion stated that an extra year will allow for more follow-through on agenda issues.

"No, it shouldn't take any more than six months to get up to speed, and then you have your time in office," said Whistler Councilor Ralph Forsyth, who spoke against the motion on Wednesday. "People were making the argument that in the third year you're campaigning. Well, no one's campaigning for a year."

Barbara Steele, first vice-president of the UBCM, said that the province would support whatever decision was reached by the UBCM delegates.

 

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