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Delay on election reform shows government incompetence: NDP critic

From the time the British Columbia government announced the task force on local elections until the resulting changes are in place for a vote will have been six years, said Scott Fraser, the New Democratic Party's critic for community and rural development.

"That's ridiculous. The height of incompetence," said the former Tofino mayor and current MLA for Alberni-Pacific Rim. "I thought it was a joke."

The provincial government had promised to have the changes in place for the 2011 municipal elections in November, but the minister responsible, Ida Chong, today said it wouldn't happen until the 2014 elections.

"It would be a laughable announcement considering the whole task force recommendation has been bungled from the beginning," said Fraser, who noted the government made its announcement just ahead of a four-day holiday weekend.

There are legitimate problems with local elections that need fixing, he said. But the government convened a process that excluded members of the opposition and that omitted the key recommendation to limit individual donations, he said. "For Liberal partisan reasons they didn't even consider that one."

Chong said the government ran out of time to make the changes, but it was the government's choice to call the legislature for only four days in the last ten months, said Fraser. "The government decided they'd tie the rudder on the ship of state," he said. "It's a government that will do anything to evade sitting in the legislature."

Union of B.C. Municipalities President Barbara Steele said it's disappointing but understandable that the changes won't be made in time for the 2011 vote. "From my point of view, I would have loved to have it all settled, but we don't," she said. "That's their decision."

The legislature will sit starting April 27, but not for long. Asked if the government perhaps should have met in the fall to make the changes, which would have been before the turmoil in the wake of Premier Gordon Campbell resigning, Steele said, "I'm not going to get into the politics of it."

The changes -- which include moving the election day from November into October -- are significant and will require thorough discussion, she said. There will also be a need to educate candidates and officials on the new requirements, she said, adding that it was preferable to wait and do it properly than to rush.

Andrew MacLeod is The Tyee’s Legislative Bureau Chief in Victoria. Reach him here.

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