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WHEREAS Section 10 of the Local Authorities Election Act sets the term of office for members of an elected authority to be three years; and
WHEREAS in the MLA Report on the Local Authorities Election Act Review, completed in 2005, the MLA Committee recommended that further consultation and research on reviewing the term of office of municipal councils take place. The provincial government noted that “further work will take place following the 2007 elections”; and
WHEREAS a review of other municipal jurisdictions within the ten provinces in Canada shows that seven currently have four-year terms (Manitoba, New Brunswick, Newfoundland, Nova Scotia, Ontario, Prince Edward Island and Quebec); two have three-year terms (Alberta, British Columbia); and one (Saskatchewan) has both a two-year (rural) and a three-year (urban) term; and
WHEREAS research identifies rationale for increased terms as “projected costs savings and the enhanced ability of municipalities to plan for the future” and to “give municipal councils more time to plan and implement their agenda in a similar fashion as both the provincial and federal governments enjoy” (Association of Municipalities of Ontario, Background Paper and Survey on Municipal Council Term and Related Matters, February 2005); and
WHEREAS the Alberta Urban Municipalities Association (AUMA) adopted a resolution at its Fall 2008 Convention urging the provincial government to amend the Local Authorities Election Act to extend the term of municipal office from three years to four years;
THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that the Alberta Association of Municipal Districts and Counties urge the Government of Alberta to amend Section 10.1 of the Local Authorities Election Act to extend the term for elected officials to hold office from a three-year term to a four-year term with a general election to be held every 4th year commencing with the year 2013.
Across Canada, discussion and review has taken place in relation to the term of office for municipal elected officials. Of the seven provinces that currently have a four-year term of office for municipal elected officials, three have implemented the extended four-year term in recent years (Ontario and Prince Edward Island in 2006 and New Brunswick in 2004) while the others have been in effect for some time (Nova Scotia in 2000, Manitoba in 1998, and Quebec and Newfoundland previous to that).
During research on terms of municipal elected officials, it has been noted that the extended terms may provide projected cost savings to municipalities. One of the direct cost savings to the municipalities would be actual election costs occurring once every four years as opposed to every three years. Some of the indirect costs savings would be the time spent in orientation for newly elected officials; orientation that can be quite lengthy and detailed dependent on the bylaws, plans, policies and other municipal-related documents that a municipal elected official needs to familiarize him/herself with. Orientation is also required with regard to provincial statutes and regulations that apply to municipalities.
Extended terms would also provide an enhanced ability for municipalities to plan for the future and municipal councils would have more time to plan and implement their agendas. Municipalities, today, are experiencing the need to create many more long-term plans with regard to planning, infrastructure (roads, water and wastewater) and grant funding programs. In some instances, due to the complexity of the issues being considered by municipalities, three years does not provide sufficient time from the start to finish for adoption of some plans. Or, by the time the plan is adopted, Council’s time working with the plan is very short-lived as an election will be pending.
Adopting a resolution similar to the resolution adopted by the Alberta Urban Municipalities Association relays a message to the Government of Alberta that all municipalities, both rural and urban, are in support of the extended terms of office for municipal elected officials.
Resolution 14-08S: THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that the AAMDC urge the Government of Alberta, in consultation with the AAMDC, to review the rules of residency contained in the Local Authority Elections Act with the intent on clarifying the residency portion of voter eligibility.
Recent correspondence from Minister Danyluk indicates that this issue will not be reviewed before the 2010 election. However, it further states that the Local Authorities Election Act will be opened in 2011 for review of the length of terms as well as other issues.
The matter of changing the term of office from three to four years requires broader consultation to verify that the majority of local authorities and voters believe the benefits of such a change would be desirable. Stakeholders may also have various perspectives on related proposals, such as set terms, maximum number of terms, split terms (electing half of council every election), and consistency with elections for school board trustees. The next major consultation is scheduled for after the 2010 municipal general election.
Municipal Affairs has indicated that consultation will occur with stakeholders in regards to amending the LAEA. However, any amendments, including consideration of four-year terms, would not be considered until the Act undergoes a full review. The timing of that review remains unknown. In the interim, the AAMDC has been gathering member feedback and developing position statements regarding the LAEA. The AAMDC continues to await the review and looks forward to the opportunity to achieve this resolution. In the meantime, the AAMDC accepts in princple the effort to date to meet its intent.