Councillor Kim Richter found herself in an unusual position this year. Immediately after being censured by her fellow councillors, she faced the will of the voters.
The voters decided that the censuring, warranted or not, wasn’t important enough to keep her out of office, and she was easily re-elected.
But that underlines an important point – council has a method to provide a (mostly symbolic) punishment to its members between elections.
The voters do not.
There is literally no mechanism right now for either councils or the public to remove a mayor or councillor in between elections – which have now been extended from every three to every four years.
Most famously, former councillor David Murray of Pitt Meadows was convicted to sexual assault in 2017. He refused to quit during his trial, and only pressure from his former colleagues convinced him to quite – four days after he was convicted.
In B.C., we have the ability to recall our MLAs, though it is a steep hill to climb. We can force a referendum on legislation, as with the unpopular HST.
But the voters have no mechanism to give a councillor the boot between elections, whether their actions are minor or, as in Murray’s case, deeply disturbing.
The provincial government has the power to change this, and to put recall powers in the hands of local voters. Victoria should give citizens more power over their local governments. If it’s good enough for MLAs, why not councillors?