There is certainly some merit to extending the term of office for municipal councils, regional districts and school boards from three to four years.
After all, there will be more time for elected officials to pursue their strategic visions. That could be important when you consider the first year of a new term currently is consumed by newcomers getting used to their duties and the third, and final year, is focused on the next election. That only leaves a brief period to do the people’s business.
A four-year term would also bring civic leaders into line with federal and provincial politicians who must be lobbied for all-important funding grants.
However, longer terms could also have a significant downside.
Particularly, people considering to run for office would be asked to give up another year of their lives. And that could be challenging for mayors and councillors in small communities where the responsibilities are extensive but the compensation is more reflective of volunteerism.
There’s already a challenge with getting younger people, including in their 40s and 50s, to run for office. But are they going to agree to four years when the salary doesn’t reflect the disruption to careers and families? And for those retirees who traditionally fill a lot of posts, will longer terms pull them away from heading south, spending time with grandkids or other activities?
At a time when there is considerable public apathy about the electoral process, it’s difficult to know if these so-called reforms from the provincial government will help or send even more people heading for the hills.