BRITISH COLUMBIA
03/26/2014 05:45 EDT | Updated 05/26/2014 05:59 EDT

B.C. introduces local government election reforms, including four-year terms

VICTORIA - The British Columbia government tabled legislation Wednesday that would see municipal politicians in the province run for election every four years instead of three.

Community, Sport and Cultural Development Minister Coralee Oakes said the two bills she introduced are a response to recommendations made in 2010 by a joint task force representing the provincial government and the Union of B.C. Municipalities.

The four-year terms, which apply to municipalities as well as regional districts, park and school boards and the Islands Trust, would begin in 2018. The bill also sets elections in October rather than November.

The proposed legislation also includes changes to campaign finance rules, such as requiring candidates to file disclosure statements within 90 days after an election. The current deadline is 120 days.

Candidates would also have to disclose sponsorship information on all election ads, and third-party advertising sponsors must register and disclose their expenditures.

"After much consultation with stakeholders, we are modernizing local government elections to maximize fairness, transparency and accountability," Oakes said in a news release.

"This is the most significant update to B.C.'s local elections process in 20 years."

The next municipal election in B.C. is this November.

The Union of B.C. Municipalities passed a resolution last year that supported four-year terms.

Mayor Dean Fortin of Victoria has said the longer term is necessary because many municipal issues have become more complicated, so more time is required to plan and engage the community.

Oakes said campaign expense limits were also discussed during consultations with local governments, and they will be introduced in time for the 2018 municipal election.

New Democrat local-government critic Selina Robinson questions why campaign expense limits were not included in Wednesday's legislation, since concerns by Vancouver civic parties over skyrocketing campaign financing was what initially sparked suggestions of reform.

"The kernel that started this whole thing is the piece that's missing, and I think that's disappointing," she said in a phone interview.

Robinson said a cap on campaign spending would level the playing field for candidates across the province.