The Province has introduced legislative amendments that will give local governments new tools to act when elected officials are charged with or convicted of a criminal offence.
“Local leaders have been asking for new tools to help maintain public confidence in instances where an elected official is charged or convicted of a criminal offence,” said Nathan Cullen, Minister of Municipal Affairs. “While our hope is that mandatory leave and disqualification will not need to be exercised, these amendments will help limit disruption, maintain public confidence and ensure local governments are able to remain focused on serving their communities.”
These legislative changes will provide municipalities and regional districts in B.C. with two separate but related tools for circumstances where a local elected official has been charged with or convicted of a criminal offence. The first amendment makes a change to the existing disqualification rules to ensure that a local elected official is disqualified at the time of conviction for an indictable offence. The second will require an elected official be put on mandatory paid leave when charged with a criminal offence until the criminal process is complete or the charges are resolved.
Treaty First Nations were notified of the proposed amendments as they may be represented on regional district boards. These changes respond to adopted resolutions of the Union of BC Municipalities as well as concerns raised by local governments.
“These changes improve the current legislation by requiring a leave of absence for local elected officials charged with a criminal offence and disqualifying those upon conviction of a criminal offence,” said Laurey-Anne Roodenburg, Union of BC Municipalities president. “Local governments have asked for changes to the legislation, and these amendments strike the right balance between fairness and good governance.”
Along with the new requirements for local elected officials who are charged with or convicted of criminal offences, the amendments revise nine pieces of legislation and will:
- repeal the Auditor General for Local Government Act, as the office closed in 2021 and it is redundant legislation;
- clarify local governments’ authority on electronic meetings and subdivision of land that is not agricultural land;
- update the Vancouver Charter to provide gender-neutral language; and
- provide the City of Vancouver the same authority all other local governments have to do energy benchmarking.
All amendments are supported by the Union of BC Municipalities and the City of Vancouver where the amendments affect them specifically.
A backgrounder follows.