Four-year terms of endearment

Cranbrook city councillors ponder the pros and cons of a recent UBCM resolution.

A recent Union of B.C. Municipalities resolution calls on the provincial government to increase municipal election terms to four years, from three.

The move is meant to bring the provincial and municipal elections inline.

In Cranbrook, mayor and council took the opportunity to weigh in on the subject.

Mayor Wayne Stetski said he was conscious of the financial savings when he weighed the option.

“I voted in favour as it reduces the cost – for every 12-year period there would be only three municipal elections instead of four,” Stetski said.

“All other levels of government have four-year terms, and it gives municipal officials more time to implement their election platforms and deliver on their promises.”

Coun. Sharon Cross said that the union has been debating the question for years, defeating the four-year option each time.

“The arguments for three-year terms versus four-year terms are equally compelling,” Cross said. “I support the four-year election term as it would save taxpayer money, and provide for a timeframe that reflects provincial and federal elections, as well as most other provinces.”

But not everyone was as optimistic about the four-year option.

Coun. Gerry Warner said he was surprised to see the motion pass so handily.

“Terms of two years or less are too little and four years is too much,” Warner said. “I think three years is ideal because it gives a councillor enough time to learn the job and accomplish something while giving the voter a reasonably quick chance to vote the councillor out of office, if it’s felt the councillor is not doing a good job.”

Coun. Diana J. Scott said that though the change is only a year, that year makes a big difference when you’re committing yourself.

“On the face of it, four years would be better to accomplish your goals as a council,” Scott said. “However, I feel it may be a deterrent to people considering running. Four years is a huge commitment to make. A lot can happen in people’s personal lives in that time: circumstances can change, jobs, moves, increase in family members, etc. Three years is a little bit more palatable for people considering lending their time on behalf of the city.”

Scott felt that the three-year system has worked thus far.

“There are usually some veterans around the table, along with new folks, so that lends a consistency from council to council,” she said.

Coun. Angus Davis noted that up until the late ‘80s, municipal elections were required every two years.

“That I thought was too short,” Davis said. “Then they went to three-year terms. I think that three years is just great. It gives the public a good amount of time to get a feeling for what their councillors are like. If they’re good then they can re-elect them. If they’re not what they wanted them to be then they have three years to prove their worth or someone else will be elected.”

Davis said that he felt, as a councillor, if he was thinking four years, he’d be thinking more about himself than the community.

“Three years is a good sensible term of office,” he said.

Councillors Denise Pallesen and Bob Whetham were not available for comment as of press time.