The Provincial Government passed legislation that for the 2014 Civic elections changes the term of office for local government from 3 to 4 years. The rationale is to bring BC in line with municipal terms in other provinces.   However they chose to put off the issue of election campaign expense limits until the 2018 general local elections as part of a phased in approach to reforms.  This, in my view, is definitely putting the cart before the horse, and pretty much guarantees another obscene municipal election spending spree.

Missing altogether from the reforms considered by the government is some form of ward system for Vancouver and Surrey, the only two major cities in Canada that use an “at Large” system for local elections. That could be because such a change would require amending Vancouver’s charter, although they have certainly done that in the past.

This does not mean the current “At Large” system can’t be changed.  The Vancouver Charter Article 138 subsection 2) states that “The Council may, by by-law, provide that all or some of the Councillors be elected on a neighbourhood constituency basis.” Section 137 enables the council by bylaw to increase the number of Councillors provided there is an uninterrupted transition from the previous Council. A by-law under subsection (2) must be approved by the Lieutenant Governor in Council before it is adopted.

Although it is highly unlikely that 6 of the existing Councillors (or 5 plus the Mayor) can be persuaded to pass such bylaws this close to the election, that is one option. Another simpler option is to make reform an issue in the upcoming election, and not vote for any candidate who doesn’t commit to reforming the “at large system” if elected.

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