B.C. municipal to address elected officials charged with criminal offences

The changes are meant to help maintain public confidence in instances where an elected official is charged or convicted of a criminal offence.

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Parliament Building, Victoria, B.C. Photo: Creative Commons image by KirinX

The Province of BC 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.

The first amendment introduced makes a change to existing disqualification rules to ensure that a local elected official is disqualified at the time of conviction, rather than at sentencing, for an indictable offence. 

The second amendment introduced will require that an elected official be put on paid leave when charged with a criminal offence until the criminal process is complete or the charges are resolved.

“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.”

The two amendments will revise nine pieces of legislation. In addition to the new requirements for elected officials in regards to criminal offences, the amendments will also make changes that include repealing the Auditor General for Local Government Act; clarifying local governments’ authority on electronic meetings and subdivision of land that is not agricultural land; and updating the Vancouver Charter to provide gender-neutral language.

B.C. municipal government organization supports changes

The Union of British Columbia Municipalities is an umbrella organization for B.C. municipalities. Following several high-profile incidents where mayors and councillors have been charged or convicted of criminal offences, has lobbied for more legislative tools to help councils deal with the issue.

In a statement included in the provincial government media release, Laurey-Anne Roodenburg, Union of BC Municipalities president, said the rules changes provided balance. “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,” she said. “Local governments have asked for changes to the legislation, and these amendments strike the right balance between fairness and good governance.”