Nanaimo city councillors are interested in debating council term length at this year’s Association of Vancouver Island Coastal Communities conference, as well as a few other resolutions.
At a governance and priorities meeting Monday, councillors voted on five resolutions to forward to the AVICC convention, which will be held virtually April 16-18.
The longest debate at the meeting arose over Coun. Ian Thorpe’s proposal for municipal council to revert to three-year terms from the current four-year terms.
Thorpe said three-year council terms establish better accountability to the electorate and are a good compromise between two-year terms, which he said he feels are too short, and four-year terms, which might be too long.
“In terms of accountability, in terms of democratic input, we need to strike a balance between what is too often and what is not often enough and the four-year term has been an experiment that has now been in place for two terms,” Thorpe said. “Certainly I’m seeing a lot of examples around the province where it’s not working out and the electorate has no chance to step in and make changes.”
Coun. Erin Hemmens said three years is not enough time for a council to complete some projects and files.
“Our work on the health and housing plan, we’re now entering into almost two years of work on that file with still a lot of work to go, so when I’m thinking about those big portfolios, three years is not enough time to see the creation of a plan, the implementation of it and then to support the community’s acceptance of that,” Hemmens said. “It just seems too short of a timeline for some of the work we’re doing.”
She said it’s better to commit to leave a career for four years to serve on a council and complete certain goals, whereas three years would mean greater uncertainty around achieving those goals.
“After having two four-year terms, it would be interesting to have local government reflect on this question,” Coun. Ben Geselbracht said.
He said he agreed with Hemmens on the three-year term creating limitations, but also suggested three-year terms could give citizens more opportunities to have their say on how a council is performing.
“Maybe it’s good to have a three-year check-in on whether you feel council is reflecting your needs and, if not, to be able to get them out before they do four years of damage,” he said.
Instead of a debate at the AVICC and Union of B.C. Municipalities levels over council term lengths, Coun. Tyler Brown suggested it might be a better option to for the province to expand its role in overseeing how well municipal councils are functioning.
Councillors Zeni Maartman, Geselbracht, Thorpe, Jim Turley, Sheryl Armstrong and Mayor Leonard Krog supported the resolution moving forward for debate at the the AVICC. Councillors Brown, Don Bonner and Hemmens were opposed.
The five resolutions discussed Monday included three put forward by Geselbracht that focus on environmental sustainability. Those proposed resolutions ask the province to draft and enact right-to-repair legislation, which would require manufacturers of appliances and electronic devices to create products designed to be repairable and to supply replacement parts; to ask the province to set a target to reduce construction and demolition waste; and to ask government to develop a provincial circular economy strategy to help B.C. communities move toward zero waste.
Two of those three resolutions were supported unanimously, with Turley opposing debating right-to-repair resolution without better clarification on which products and technologies could be affected by the legislation.
“This is where I’m happy to step into the realms of provincial jurisdiction and that’s all we’re really asking for here,” said Krog. “We’re saying … we’re tired of taking [items] to depots or throwing it into the garbage can or whatever because it can’t be repaired, it’s not designed to be repaired or it’s too expensive to be repaired.”
Armstrong proposed a resolution to allow municipalities to opt to use restorative justice in resolving bylaw infractions. It could be applied when people cannot afford to pay bylaw infraction fines, and options could include municipalities asking for community service hours for littering or graffiti offences. Armstrong’s proposed resolution passed unanimously.