Proposed four-year terms earn Stettler-area blessing

Shifting municipal elections to four years from three years appears to be gaining local support.

Shifting municipal elections to four years from three years appears to be gaining local support.

Albertans are invited to offer suggestions for the review of the provincial Local Authorities Election Act, and Stettler-area politicians have already weighed in on the issue.

Albertans have until July 31 to submit their comments as part of the review, which also asks whether to hold elections in the spring rather than the current time of the fall — the third Monday of October.

While only Alberta and British Columbia have three-year terms for municipal and school board elections, four-year terms are held in the other eight provinces, along with the three territories.

“The reasoning behind it is sound and it could save some costs,” said County of Stettler Reeve Wayne Nixon. “A four-year term allows councils to plan more into the future.”

Another local municipal leader agrees.

“Four years makes sense for more and better continuity — you can accomplish more,” said Town of Stettler Mayor Dick Richards.

He also wants to give all property owners in the community an opportunity to vote, though the current act permits only residents to vote in their municipality.

“If you pay property taxes in a community, you should have a say,” Richards said.

He noted that about half of the businesses owners in Stettler can’t vote here because they’re residents in another municipality.

Richards also said he wants elections to be more accessible for people who travel south for the winter.

In the Village of Halkirk, Mayor Dale Kent said he supports terms of either four years or three.

With the next elections scheduled for October, changes would occur as early as next year.

At least one local municipal council is opposed to shifting municipal elections to four years.

“Our council doesn’t support four-year terms, because we feel three years is enough commitment,” said Town of Castor Mayor Garry DeVloo.

Castor council also supports the concept that all property owners in the municipality, not just residents, should be eligible to vote.

“We discussed it at length as a council and these are the two issues we agreed on,” DeVloo said.

The possible change isn’t as concerning for other municipalities.

“I have no problem whether it’s three years or four,” said County of Paintearth Reeve George Glazier.

He even suggested that provincial and municipal elections be held on the same fixed election day.

Glazier, however, opposes any option that residents vote in municipalities where they own property, not just in the community where they reside.

“I think you should be able to vote in only one municipality,” Glazier said.

Clearview Public Schools trustees also support four-year terms.

“We discussed it a couple of years ago and we supported a four-year term,” said Ken Checkel, who chairs the school board.

School trustees agree with the four-year term.

“Although the association doesn’t have a position, we know many members support the idea,” said Clearview trustee Patty Dittrick, who also serves as president of the Public School Boards Association of Alberta.

“If municipalities go to four-year terms, we want to go to four-year terms, as well.”

A survey is also available online to allow Albertans to further respond and express their positions.

“Given that voting is one of the most fundamental democratic rights, all Albertans deserve a say in how their local elections are governed,” said Doug Griffiths, Minister of Municipal Affairs, who also serves as the MLA for Battle River-Wainwright.

“We want to hear from Albertans and from municipalities on these issues, so any changes can be made this fall in time for the 2013 local elections.”

To complete the survey or for more information, connect to the website municipal affairs.alberta.ca.