Until this year, the platforms crafted by Vancouver's political leaders revolved around a three-year election cycle. But the recent 2014 election marks the first four-year term between municipal elections in B.C.'s history.
While there are concerns about the effect of four-year terms on budgets and controversial issues, it is certainly a step in the right direction for Vancouver.
Consider the impact it will have on community planning. It takes years and a lot of patience to go through a comprehensive planning process and to complete a community or neighbourhood plan. Having an additional 12 months between elections will help our leaders initiate and conclude a plan within their tenure.
Although some may like the idea of political change amidst the community planning process, it can also create a disjointed community plan that does not have consistent goals. Now, there is more time for proper public consultation in the community planning process, without being impacted by the timing of the municipal election.
The effects of a short election cycle were evident in the Grandview Woodlands Community Plan. It was one of three plans being reviewed during the previous term of the Vision Vancouver council. The plan encountered a significant amount of controversy between the different stakeholder groups, and as a result, Mayor Gregor Robertson and council effectively shelved the plan until after the 2014 election for fear of losing a strong base of electors.
Had the previous term been four years, it is likely that Vision would have either adopted the plan outright or concluded an additional consultation process.
With a four-year term, municipal officials will have more time to accomplish long-term goals and offer solid political leadership during the approval and construction of major infrastructure projects such as rapid transit lines. New Surrey Mayor Linda Hepner has promised a light rail transit system by 2018. If it wasn't for a longer election term, she might not have been able to make that commitment and the city would not have benefited from a project that is clearly important to voters.
In terms of its impact on businesses, the longer election terms will allow for greater productivity, especially on challenging development projects that need collaboration with local politicians. Historically, the rule of thumb in the development industry has been that you should not look for council approval on a controversial development proposal within nine months of a municipal election. And it's been prevalent for politicians to request that an applicant refrain from submitting a particular development proposal until after the municipal election.
Although unfortunate political games will continue to impact the growth of our cities regardless, we can now roll up our sleeves and plan for a more productive future for the municipalities we live and work in.
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