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New minister 'confident' changes to BC local elections ready for 2014

Long-promised changes to how mayors and councillors are elected in British Columbia will be in place before the 2014 local government elections, the minister who inherited the file told The Tyee.

"You know what, we're working closely with our staff, we're working closely with the Union of British Columbia Municipalities, and we've got several meetings lined up and we're confident that we'll move forward for the 2014 election," said Coralee Oakes, the minister of community, sport and cultural development.

In 2010 the Local Government Elections Task Force, which included representatives of the UBCM and the provincial government, recommended 31 changes including expense limits, requiring third party advertisers to register, and banning anonymous donations. Fifteen of the changes require amendments to provincial laws.

In July, 2010, the government promised to have the changes in place for the 2011 elections, but in April, 2011, bumped the implementation to 2014 "due to tight timelines for spring legislation and the complexity of the planned changes."

Three years since the initial promise, the government is yet to introduce the necessary laws and won't do so in the current session which is focused on passing the 2013-2014 budget. It is unclear whether the legislature will sit again before February 2014.

Asked about the tight timing, Oakes said, "We're working with staff closely to make sure we're ready to go and we're in close conversations with UBCM."

Ministry staff have been working on a communications plan and the government is confident the changes will be ready and communicated to municipal candidates soon enough to be in use in 2014, said Oakes.

Municipal elections are scheduled for November 15, 2014. The proposed changes had included moving local government elections to October, but the UBCM asked the government to delay the move until 2017.

Andrew MacLeod is The Tyee's Legislative Bureau Chief in Victoria. Find him on Twitter or reach him here.

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