Four-year terms can be both good and bad

The provincial government has announced it will introduce legislation to make local elections four-year terms, up from the current three, starting with the 2014 elections.

Now, more than ever, it’s time to do our homework before we head to the ballot box in November to decide who will represent us at city hall, the regional district, and school board.

It wasn’t that long ago that these terms were only two years.

Now, four years puts them on par with provincial and federal governments, and, as always, there are pros and cons.

If we have a good, productive, attentive and responsive local or regional government, then that would be positive.

However, if we elect a group of individuals who refuse to work as a team, it could be four years of heartache and headache for local residents and taxpayers.

And, because of the lack of a party system or "slate" in local and regional governments, each and every election seems to become an exercise in "herding cats". Not until after these elections do any of the players know who exactly they’ll be sharing deliberations with.

That could be a good thing, but it more often than not produces an organism that is filled with schism and ideological differences that prohibits much in terms of positive, forward progress.

Slate or party politics at the municipal/district/school board level also comes with a downside, although it is more predictable.

We know what the NDP/BC Liberals/Conservatives/federal Liberals stand for, so we would know what to expect if the majority of members are from one particular political stripe.

Perhaps that isn’t palatable when it hits so close to home.

No level of government has as much impact on what goes on in our neighbourhoods than city and regional district elected bodies, and to have those groups expected to tow the line with bigger, stronger provincial and federal camps is likely not in the best interests of local taxpayers.

Vancouver has parties, but they’re basically split along provincial party lines. Surrey as well. It is being done, but is it being done well? The jury is still out.

School board is the one area where most voters seem perplexed and don’t pay attention, even though their budgets rival those of the city. The "experiment" that is taking place in Duncan, where the entire school board was removed for refusing to balance their budget, has been operating quietly and successfully with one person in charge. Maybe that’s the way to go.

The savings would be sizeable with school boards eliminated. In any event, it’s time to start paying attention to whom may be making local decisions on our behalf starting this fall, because we’ll be stuck with them – good or bad – for a long, long time.

Vancouver Island News Group