Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Changes available for municipal elections in BC

The provincial government in BC changed the act governing local governments making possible for local governments to change how councilors are elected.  No longer do all the councilors have to be elected as one mass at large group, municipalities can choose to elect councilors by wards or a mix of wards and at large.

The province has also allowed local governments to choose how many councilors a municipality has up to a maximum of 10.

So far only one municipality has taken up this power, that being Lake Country.   The recent local elections saw only two councilor elected on an at large basis with the other four elected from a ward.   Lake Country now has councilors representing Oyama, Carr's Landing, Okanagan Centre and Winfield.

The existing electoral system used to elect councilors is the worst possible voting system ever devised.   It makes it very hard for a new person to be elected because the nature of the how the it works.    Every person someone convinces to vote is going to vote for other people, in most cases that will be the best known names.   It means that all the challengers effectively end up campaigning for the incumbents as well.

The at large system also does not work well for neighbourhoods.   In the case of my neighbourhood, we have not had anyone sitting on Victoria City Council in as far back as I can find.   The system the City of Victoria uses for council liaison does not create an advocate for a neighbourhood, but is really more of a representing Victoria to the neighbourhoods.

Most municipalities in BC should move away from any at large elected councilors as quickly as possible to ensure that the 2014 local elections are fairer than in the past.


Patrick Babazon said...

"The provincial government in BC changed the act "

Dit it? I can't find the amendment to either the Community Charter ot the LGA.

Bernard said...

36.1 of the Local Government Act:

36.1 (1) Unless a bylaw under subsection (2) applies, every council member must be elected from the municipality at large.

(2) A council may, by bylaw, provide that all or some of the councillors be elected on a neighbourhood constituency basis.
(3) A bylaw under subsection (2) must establish the areas that are to be neighbourhood constituencies and provide for an orderly transition to election on this basis.
(4) The authority under subsection (2) applies despite the letters patent of the municipality, but a bylaw under that subsection must be approved by the Lieutenant Governor in Council before it is adopted.
(5) If a neighbourhood constituency is established,
(a) the only persons who may vote as electors of the neighbourhood constituency are
(i) resident electors of the municipality who meet the qualifications of section 50 in relation to the area of the neighbourhood constituency, and
(ii) non-resident property electors of the municipality who meet the qualifications of section 51 in relation to the area of the neighbourhood constituency, and
(b) except as permitted at an additional general voting or a special voting opportunity, the electors of the neighbourhood constituency may only vote on general voting day at the voting places for that neighbourhood constituency.
(6) The notice of election under section 77 for an election on the basis of a neighbourhood constituency must include the following additional information:
(a) the boundaries of the neighbourhood constituency;
(b) the voting place on general voting day for the neighbourhood constituency;
(c) a description of the qualifications established by subsection (5) (a) that entitle an elector to vote for a council member to represent the neighbourhood constituency

Patrick Brabazon said...

OK. But your post implied, in my opinion, that something new had occurred. This local government politician thought that the government had finally seen the light, and some legislative amendments had slipped by without notice. Oh well, back to the port.

Bernard said...

I can not remember the date it was done, but it was not that long ago, though not in the last session

Patrick Brabazon said...

All right, but I think these sections have been with us for quite a while. I have to say that I am an Electoral Area Director and thus elected in what is essentially a ward. I have for decades argued for more accountability in municipal government. I have lived in both Oak Bay and Victoria, I quite agree with your concerns.

In fact, the late lamented STV proposal would have worked well at the municipal level.