Maureen Bader: Longer terms for local politicians spell bad news for B.C. citizens

In May, when a B.C. task force released its recommendations to improve local government elections, one recommendation that didn’t get much attention was to increase the length of time local politicians stay in office from three years to four. Although having to ask voters less often for their support might be great for local politicians, it’s bad news for local citizens.

The B.C. government struck the Local Government Elections Task Force in 2009 to find ways to improve the electoral process for municipal elections in B.C. Task force members included three provincial politicians and three Union of British Columbia Municipalities members. But UBCM is a lobby group that represents the interests of local politicians and was able to use its position on the panel to support its own recommendations. Some, such as campaign contribution limits and the corporate vote received a fair bit of attention. However the recommendation to increase the length of the election cycle flew under the radar screen.

UBCM has lobbied long and hard to give local politicians an extra year of job security. In the 1980s, it was UBCM that lobbied to increase the election term from two years to three. Since 2007, it has been actively lobbying the provincial government to extend the election term by yet another year. So the recommendation for a longer election cycle came as no surprise.

How does a local government lobby group justify an extra year of pay, perks, and power?

UBCM claims holding elections less often will save money. Nice to know local politicians occasionally look for places to save taxpayer’s hard-earned dollars. But who really benefits with fewer elections? It’s the politicians, not the taxpayers.

UBCM claims a longer term will give local politicians more time to learn the ropes. Yet, according to CivicInfo B.C., of the 1,195 local government officials elected in 2008 (including mayors, councillors, trustees, and regional district officials) only 18 percent reported “no experience”. Frankly, with 82 percent getting re-elected, this excuse just doesn’t hold water.

UBCM also says that other provinces have four-year terms, so we should too. Since when does the excuse “everyone else is doing it” make something right?

There is other bad news. Because there is no ability to recall municipal politicians, it is virtually impossible to remove a politician from office mid-term.

For example, in 2008 the mayor of Port Coquitlam was charged with a criminal offense. He was sentenced to a one-year conditional sentence and 18 months probation. Port Coquitlam councillors asked him to resign, but he refused. A longer term would have kept him in office even longer, leaving local citizens with questionable representation.

Moving from a three to a four-year term is a big mistake. It lets politicians hang around in office even longer without seeking the approval of voters. Local government is supposed to serve citizens, not itself. To enhance accountability, local politicians need to face voters more often, not less. There is no legitimate justification for the provincial government to increase the election term.

You can make your views known by contacting Minister of Community and Rural Development Ben Stewart at 250-387-2283 or

Maureen Bader is the B.C. director of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation.



glen p robbins

Jul 16, 2010 at 3:44pm

I completely agree with you Maureen---I believe this is a defensive move - to maintain the small group of people - actors - their sponsors, interest groups -- the Swiss firm that controls human resources (union) - and if either the old parties BC NDP and BC Liberals can maintain the province -- and a majority from the same pool of controlled actors municipally -- watch later for a try for 5 years provincially.

BC is no democracy - the core of the political system is a scam - this is more evidence of it.

Evil Eye

Jul 16, 2010 at 5:09pm

Damn right! The only thing that today's politicians are afraid of are elections and to increase the term from three years to four years is asinine. If we do, we will see the most inept and corrupt politicians pilfer and destroy what we have left of this province.



Jul 16, 2010 at 8:12pm

She's right about this. Also, included in the debate should be the election of Realtors and Developers. I am a Realtor and I do not believe I should be allowed to run for election unless I have resigned or have left the profession for at least 1 year. By the way Bader, where do you stand on the HST? Jingle jingle jingle, Ka ching!

Ed Nauseum

Jul 17, 2010 at 11:46am

Bader is an anti-tax, anti-tax fanatic. She has no credibility in representing the people, as she represents a right-wing special interest group, not the people in general.

Sean Bickerton

Jul 17, 2010 at 2:51pm

People also forget how much people have to give up in order to go into public office. It's a daunting prospect at best and adding a fourth year to the terms makes it even moreso. It will make potential candidates think twice before running. Three years of service is one thing, but four years is a long time to ask of anyone.

glen p robbins

Jul 18, 2010 at 9:49am

Forgive me Sean - but that saccarine you are advancing is - in my opinion- some age old shit----people don't go into politics---for public service -- that line is for the shrinking group of cow people who still buy such nonsense.

People go into politics in the best case -- because they 'think' they can make a difference/the special interest supporting them pushes them in that direction--- and advance their careers simultaneously----in the worst case--they are severe power mongers - and hovering around the money -- that is obviously linked to the industry ultimately for their own benefit. My lists of the former are much much shorter than for the latter.

My concern - when I do get out and meet a politician -- is the condescending type of personality order that evolves--while some others to me--are just plain stupid -- but that is my opinion--

Should we go through before and after pictures of Cabinet Minister wealth -- or mayor's personal wealth because of their participation in politics? There are many many more who win --------than lose - after they become elected.

Lastly, Citizens don't give a shit what your reason is for going into politics--it's your choice -- do a good job -- or get out.

My ZEUS crew has decided that as a self appointed quasi government -- we will do our best to enforce 2 term limits -- grandfathered.

We will look at mayor's first. Under a ZEUS mandate -- a mayor who has feasted off two terms of office -- will be up for ZEUS execution (no stoning) -- if they seek a third term---.

Sean Bickerton

Jul 20, 2010 at 1:13pm

With respect, Glen, if good people who aren't after self-aggrandizement or self-enrichment are discouraged from running, you will be left with the type of candidates you disparage.

People interested in serving may be willing to sacrifice three years of dinners home with their family, free weekends, time with friends etc, but asking anyone to take four years out of their lives is too long, and it doesn't benefit voters as they have to wait longer to turf out those they're unhappy with.

It serves those in politics because they have no other options, but discourages those who aren't professional politicians.

glen p robbins

Jul 21, 2010 at 8:11am

Sean - (respectfully) I think we are on the same wavelength - except - my bias comes from municipal politicians who have told me many times that they want the extension of time. Long time politicians don't want to run as often - they have their core base of supporters - usually $$ from union or developer/business --and few people vote--so once in - chances are you stay in.

Your position if I am reading it correctly suggests that politicians don't want the extra year---but I would suggest this position is negated by the fact that 90% of politicians at this level who are successful once (for three years) -- run again for another three --- and often another three.

This makes me believe they like the gig - and supports my anecdotal that politicians like this move-------------------which is turn -- I believe sorts out the options I provided for.


Jul 21, 2010 at 8:17am

With respect Sean, how many elected officials serve only 1 term. Most are in it for the long haul. The reason? It's easier than work and a lot of expenses are covered. If your right wing, then it's onto Provincial or Federal to feed at the trough then on to a board of directors (Note: Carol Taylor). I'm not a right winger as you can tell and I certainly don't support Bader on most topics. I believe that when we elect a representative we want them to be honest, and they should be or recall them. STV would be another way to prevent the corruption rampant in Victoria and Ottawa. That's another topic though.

As we've seen since 2001 at the provincial level and since Hee Haw Harper and his 3 ring circus were elected in Ottawa, the opposit is true. Without the STV, they should only have 2 kicks at the cat (terms) and that's it. Then we would be less likely to have the fiasco like we do in Victoria.