Council to debate change to civic election schedule

Red Deer city council will debate today whether holding civic elections every four years instead of three is worth the change.

Red Deer city council will debate today whether holding civic elections every four years instead of three is worth the change.

City administration is recommending the city’s formal position to Alberta Municipal Affairs be one that advocates for every four years instead of three.

It also recommends the municipality inform the province that timing of elections remain status quo for the fall rather than being held in the spring. As a result, administration is suggesting the municipal and school board elections continue in October 2013, instead of having voters cast ballots in spring 2014.

Alberta Municipal Affairs is reviewing the Local Authorities Election Act following requests from municipalities. It’s seeking opinions from Albertans through an online survey on hand until July 31. It’s available through http://www.municipalaffairs.alberta.ca/1774.cfm

City of Red Deer administration suggests that four year terms are better because it’s economically beneficial to municipalities, it helps new councillors gain more experience, and it results in ability to better plan for the long term. The only downside is seeing non-performing councillors operate for a longer period.

Administration said no rationale from province was provided as to the benefits of a fall versus a spring election, so no change is supported.

Residents polled at Rotary Park on Sunday had divergent views on whether terms should be extended for elected officials.

Justin Flunder of Red Deer said he would like to see the province stretch out terms to four years.

“If people want to accomplish something on council, sometimes it makes it difficult to do that with three years,” said Flunder, who owns a leadership and training development business. “Giving the four-year allowance provides an opportunity for collaboration and maybe to do something larger.”

Flunder would like municipal elections to continue in the fall.

“It’s almost like a new year for business and for the city because people are done their summer holidays. It kind of refocuses your thinking a little bit.”

Ray Leckie, visiting Red Deer from Fort Saskatchewan, would rather have elections kept at three-year intervals.

“It makes people a little more obligated and it pushes things a little faster,” Leckie said. “Four years is too long.”

Leckie has no preference on whether elections should be held in the spring or fall.

Leckie’s wife Jennifer said she prefers having elections every three years as well because if voters don’t like their elected leaders, they can vote them out sooner. Holding elections in the fall sits well with her.

Pat Horton of Lloydminster, Alta. said he’d be fine with elections every four years.

“It gives people enough time to learn their job and experience before their term is over,” said Horton, adding he has no preference for spring or fall elections.

Sheldon Ruryk of Red Deer would like to see elections extended to four years.

“Maybe three years isn’t enough to see how things go,” he said. “Four years is enough to see how things will work out.”

He’d prefer to see elections stay in the fall since in the spring, people tend to begin travelling and doing other things.

ltester@bprda.wpengine.com

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