(Updated, Nov 5, 2015 — The LMLGA secretariat and top executive stopped responding to our questions in 2014. The President wrote a formal refusal. The Executive secretary wrote to say LMLGA is not subject to BC FOI legislation. An FOI to BC Government about any correspondence between LMLGA and the UBCM–which we know was part of the process–turned up NO RECORDS. Our original 2014 story continues.) This could get embarrassing, but we are not sure for whom. It’s a high-stakes political whodunnit mystery, and perhaps it goes right to the core of our democratic systems in British Columbia. The Union of BC Municipalities is holding its annual convention in Whistler this week. Someone there knows the answer. As Rex Murphy stated in his keynote speech to the UBCM, “Municipalities are the very atoms of our democracy.” So let’s see how the atoms are doing…
Here’s the question:
Who initiated the push in June 2013 that led to the shift to the four-year municipal election cycle in B.C.?
We believe the answer traces back to one person. And it could be revealing, because it seems the whole thing was orchestrated to achieve the result. But who is that person?
It must be a member of the Executive of the Lower Mainland Local Government Association (LMLGA) at the time (see list below) who advanced the text of a resolution, which was adopted during an LMLGA conference call (no minutes, participants not reported), on an unspecified date in June 2013. But the exact text of that resolution made it into the official resolutions book of the Union of BC Municipalities at their convention in September 2013. No record is kept of how each municipality voted at that convention. But the resolution passed, and then was used as the basis for the B.C. Minister of Community, Sport and Cultural Development to do a 180-degree shift in policy and push hard for a four-year civic election cycle. The public first heard about it in January 2014, and by the end of April, it was part of legislation for the Local Elections Campaign Financing Act (LECFA). As a result, after the November 15, 2014 election, the next civic election will be in 2018, rather than 2017, giving the winners of this 2014 election an extra year in power.
The answer to this whodunnit traces squarely back to that 2013 meeting of directors of the LMLGA. Below is the chronology. This story throws into the spotlight the governance, integrity and public accountability of several regional bodies like the LMLGA and GVRD (Metro Vancouver) in B.C. that wield huge influence but are not directly accountable to the public.
Resolutions don’t draft themselves. It was a very intentional process. The LMLGA secretariat has so far not answered our specific questions. Why is the executive hiding the identity of the original proponent?
About the shift to the four year election cycle:
• The public didn’t want it.
• Many municipal politicians didn’t want it.
• The B.C. provincial government was not planning to do it (as of Sept 9, 2013)
• The Union of BC Municipalities was advised not to do it (UBCM Resolutions Committee for 2013 Convention, Sept 2013)
So how did this obscure resolution from a body scarcely known by the public end up getting to the UBCM Convention in 2013, adopted, then all the way into legislation withing matter of months?
Because of the change, the next election will be in 2018, instead of 2017. Yet the provincial government delayed the introduction of caps on election donations and spending until 2018, though those financial reforms were at the top on the list of reforms wanted by the public. In effect, going to four years amounts to a 33% increase in the power and influence of municipal politicians, by giving them more time to do their stuff before facing voters again.
The LMLGA is protecting someone. CityHallWatch will protect whistleblowers, so anyone with inside information, please send us an e-mail to citizenYVR [at] gmail.com
We do now that during debate in Legislature, Minister Coralee Oakes disclosed that in Vancouver it was Mayor Gregor Robertson who had told her he wanted four year terms. Yet his request was with no public mandate. The City of Vancouver had not even asked its citizens if they wanted to move to four year election cycles.
At the LMLGA, who had the public mandate to call for four-year election cycle? No one. But someone did.
CHRONOLOGY OF MOVE TO FOUR-YEAR MUNICIPAL ELECTION CYCLES
May 8-10, 2013 (Harrison Hot Springs): LMLGA annual conference and Annual General Meeting. Many resolutions are discussed and adopted, but there was no mention of election reforms. Membership did not discuss the topic.
Late June 2013: LMLGA Executive communicates by e-mail and conference call. LMLGA will not indicate when it was held or who participated. Reportedly, no minutes were kept. The Secretariat has so far failed to report who participated in that meeting, who proposed the text of the resolution for the UBCM to call for four-year election cycles. The Executive made this decision without the mandate of members. What were the points discussed? How was the decision made? Was a vote conducted? How did each participant vote?
By June 30, LMLGA sends resolution to UBCM
(Assumed, as it was included in Resolutions book, with deadline June 30)
9-Sept-2013: Provincial government releases White Paper that provides an overview of the proposed Local Elections Campaign Financing Act (LECFA), describing each part of the act and a draft of the legislation proposed for introduction in spring 2014. The papers emphasize: Local government elections are held on a three-year cycle as agreed to with the Union of BC Municipalities (UBCM).
16-20 Sept-2013. UBCM convention.
Resolution committee recommends NOT to adopt it.
But not only was the resolution adopted, someone amended it to rush it through in 2014. The underlined text was added at the UBCM.
THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that UBCM ask the provincial government to increase the interval between civic elections from three years to four years, and that legislation be passed to do so in time for the 2014 election.
Public gets first indication that the new legislation will have a four-year election cycle
Legislation is passed with four-year election cycle.
Members of LMLGA Executive as of June 2013
- Patricia Heintzman, President, Squamish
- Chuck Puchmayr, First Vice President, New Westminster
- Corisa Bell, Second Vice President, Maple Ridge
- Barbara Steele, Past President, Surrey
- Rick Glumac, Director at Large, Port Moody
- Barinder Rasode, Director at Large, Surrey
- Jason Lum, Director at Large, City of Chilliwack
- Bill Dickey, FVRD Representative
- Raymond Louie, Metro Vancouver Representative
- Susan Gimse, SLRD Representative
- Dave Hensman, Director at Large, Mission
MEMBERS OF LMLGA
LMLGA comprises of local goverments from three Regional Districts and represents more than 2.5 million people, 50+ per cent of British Columbia’s population. It is fair to say that there was no discussion within the LMLGA about shifting to four-year election cycles — not at the municipal level, and certainly NOT with citizens. So whose interests was the LMLGA looking after when the Executive advanced the motion for four-year terms?
Squamish Lillooet Regional District [SLRD]
- Village of Pemberton
- District of Squamish
- Resort Municipality of Whistler
- Village of Anmore
- Village of Belcarra
- Bowen Island Municipality
- City of Burnaby
- City of Coquitlam
- Corporation of Delta
- City of Langley
- Township of Langley
- Village of Lions Bay
- District of Maple Ridge
- City of New Westminster
- City of North Vancouver
- District of North Vancouver
- District of Pitt Meadows
- City of Port Coquitlam
- City of Port Moody
- City of Richmond
- City of Surrey
- City of Vancouver
- District of West Vancouver
- City of White Rock
Fraser Valley Regional District [FVRD]
- City of Abbotsford
- City of Chilliwack
- Village of Harrison Hot Springs
- District of Hope
- District of Kent
- District of Mission