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Municipal leaders seek reform on byelection laws

Resolution asks for more discretion when directors take extended leave

Municipal leaders from around the province will debate advocating the provincial government to update regulations on local governments’ ability to deal with extended absences of directors due to illness or injury.

It is one of three resolutions from Powell River to be debated at the Union of BC Municipalities (UBCM) conference when leaders meet in Victoria September 26 to 30.

The issue was first raised after Powell River Regional District Electoral Area B director Stan Gisborne suffered a stroke almost a year ago and has not been able to attend meetings. Since then, alternate director Alan Rebane has been sitting in on his behalf. Gisborne named Rebane as his emergency replacement after being elected in the November 2014 municipal election.

Powell River Regional District chair Patrick Brabazon said he knows this has been a tough period for Gisborne and his family, but “it does not remove the responsibility to act for the greater good,” said Brabazon.

“Those of us who are elected hold the public trust and, difficult as some may find it to do so, we must separate the person from the office in all our deliberations,” said Brabazon. “In this case, the people of Area B have lost their elected representative.”

In response to Gisborne’s condition, electors of Area B petitioned the regional district board and province to have a byelection called, but were told that under current regulations one could not be called if a director is absent due to illness or injury.

“It is important to note that our proposed change to the law is a simple deletion of ‘illness or injury,’” said Brabazon. “The provision for absences from four consecutive board meetings would remain.”

The regional board meets once per month and the board can remove a director at its discretion after four consecutive missed meetings.

In addition to that resolution, two others from Powell River include one to halt the West Coast herring fishery in order to allow fish stocks to fully recover and another to ask BC Ministry of Health to eliminate prostate-specific antigen (PSA) testing fees.

City of Powell River councillor Maggie Hathaway said she hopes UBCM will adopt the herring resolution and bring it to the Canadian Federation of Municipalities in the spring to lobby the federal government.

“The Salish Sea is just now returning to its previous splendour because of herring restrictions and now the fishery is being opened up again,” said Hathaway. “This is an important and timely motion.”

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