The mayor of Penticton says he’s willing to foot the bill for an upcoming mayoral race after being elected as an MLA in Tuesday’s provincial election.
It’s an unorthodox gesture, but Dan Ashton says the city is struggling financially and he didn’t want to leave it in a worse place by running provincially.
With at least 10 municipal politicians having won ridings in the provincial election, thousands of British Columbians will soon be heading to the polls yet again to vote in municipal by-elections, with taxpayers having to pay for them.
It might simply be the price of democracy, but there could be ways to cut costs.
Mr. Ashton, who was elected as a Liberal MLA for the riding of Penticton, says he doesn’t expect other politicians to take the same approach as he did.
“I got elected a year and a half ago, and it came up whether I would stay. And I said, ‘opportunities knock all the time, and if a door was there I would take a look at it.’
“But there are extenuating circumstances in Penticton; we’re challenged financially,” Mr. Ashton said, noting that in 2008 the city had to lay off 31 people. “I told people if I did move up I would be sure that I wouldn’t leave people picking up the tab for it. So I said I would pay up to $35,000 dollars for the by-election.”
Mr. Ashton says $35,000 is the price the city clerk told him a by-election would cost when he got elected as mayor.
Peter Fassbender, the mayor of the City of Langley, who was also elected as a Liberal MLA on Tuesday night, doesn’t think it should be the candidate’s responsibility to foot the bill.
“If he has the capacity to do it, good on him. I’m not in that position,” said Mr. Fassbender, who will represent the riding of Surrey-Fleetwood in Victoria. “If I got hit by a bus and I wasn’t mayor any more, they’d have to have a by-election and I wouldn’t be paying for it from my hospital bed.”
Mr. Fassbender said by-elections are simply the price people have to pay for politicians being encouraged to move up the political ladder.
“If everything lined up wonderfully, the day you make your decision to run would be the end of your term, and if all those calendars lined up in a nice sequence, wouldn’t that be wonderful? But that’s not the way it is,” he said.
Jordan Bateman of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation says this is precisely something the province should look into doing.
“There are ways the province can prevent this in the future, actually having election cycles with four-year municipal terms [instead of three] and four-year provincial terms in the same year, which will take people away from jumping,” he said.
This will actually happen in 2017, but simply by chance, and there is currently no provincial policy in place.
Mr. Bateman says not every by-election will cost the same, as the price will depend on the size of the city and municipal riding.
“I appreciate Dan’s [Ashton] leadership on this. When it comes to fiscal responsibility, I definitely applaud it,” Mr. Bateman said. “Ultimately taxpayers are going to have to foot the bill, but I think this has to be part of the calculation when you vote for these guys for higher office … if [taxpayers] didn’t want to spend the money, they should have actively been out there getting commitments from candidates they would help to pay the cost [of a by-election]. It is the price of democracy.”