Councils weigh options on four-year election term

Red Deer city council is expected to take a formal position on whether holding civic elections every four years is a better idea instead of every three.

Red Deer city council is expected to take a formal position on whether holding civic elections every four years is a better idea instead of every three.

Alberta Municipal Affairs is asking Albertans how often municipal elections should be held, and if they want elections to run in the spring instead of the fall. Possibly, an election could occur in spring 2014 instead of fall 2013.

This is part of a review of the Local Authorities Election Act following requests from municipalities.

An online survey will be on hand until July 31 at http://www.municipalaffairs.alberta.ca/1774.cfm

Elaine Vincent, Legislative and Governance Services manager and electoral returning officer for Red Deer, said the topic is expected to be debated at a future council meeting.

While she couldn’t speak to the administrative benefits of holding an election every four years, Vincent said there are definitely pros and cons to stretching out the time.

On the plus side, councillors would have a longer time to grasp issues because right now, as soon as they seem to get a handle on them, it’s time for a new election, she said.

“The difficult thing is that people would have to make a four-year commitment and for some candidates that may be too long of a window,” said Vincent on Wednesday. “It might discourage people from throwing their hat in the ring.”

Red Deer Coun. Dianne Wyntjes, who was first elected in 2010, said that provincial elections run every four years, so if it’s linked up with that, that makes sense.

“It seems like recently we’ve had election fatigue with the federal, provincial and municipal election almost all at once,” Wyntjes said. “From a rookie perspective, I like the idea (for four years).”

She said that council is now reaching its midway point and so the time has gone by quickly.

“To me it’s not about rushing the work to get it done, but doing things well,” Wyntjes said. “So I’d be in favour of it. But it’s important to hear from the electorate.”

Coun. Buck Buchanan, who is on his second term, had mixed emotions about going to four years.

Time-wise, three years is too short, he said.

But four years may be too long if a council isn’t functioning well, he said.

Buchanan said that Red Deer’s council is “very, very proficient” but that is not always the case.

“There are some councils. . . where there are hiccups, so four years may be too long,” said Buchanan.

Olds Mayor Judy Dahl said she’s not 100 per cent in favour of four years.

“I still need more debate on that because I think our citizens do need the say,” said Dahl. “Is it fair to go to four years for the sake of our convenience?”

Dahl said it almost takes new councillors two or three years to get in the swing of things.

“But on the other hand, I always have to remember how we got there and who we are working for,” she said. “So if you have a contentious issue or something that the public isn’t in favour of, and they have to wait that extra year.”

Dahl said she’s looking forward to hearing from all sides — from the politicians, people, and the provincial government.

ltester@bprda.wpengine.com

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