Province not considering municipal recall legislation, despite municipal advisor's recommendation

Recall law not on the table

Despite a recent push from Kamloops city hall to see the province consider recall legislation for local elected officials, the Ministry of Municipal Affairs says it isn’t currently looking at adopting such a measure.

A Kamloops-sponsored resolution, supported by delegates at last week’s Southern Interior Local Government Association conference, suggested asking the province to consider new provisions — including those resulting in suspension or disqualification — to protect against bullying or harassment.

In his final report, Henry Braun, municipal advisor for Kamloops council, laid out 23 recommendations, including discussing the possible need for changes to provincial legislation, potentially including a process for removing a council member.

In an emailed statement to Castanet Kamloops, the ministry said there are existing tools a local government can use to uphold standards of behaviour.

“Recall legislation for local governments is not being considered at this time,” the ministry said.

The ministry noted elections provide “the fundamental democratic framework around which elected officials are ultimately held accountable for their decisions and actions.”

However, the ministry said it supports local governments taking more responsibility for the ethical conduct of elected representatives.

“There are various tools local governments can use to support and clarify expected standards of behaviour, such as codes of conduct and oaths of office,” the ministry said, adding the Community Charter also contains ethical standards for local elected officials.

The charter also outlines a process by which the municipality or members of the electorate can apply in B.C. Supreme Court to have a council member disqualified.

Speaking with news reporters after giving his final report to council, Braun said he didn’t know if the province has an interest in recall legislation, but confirmed the ministry had been provided a copy of his report.

Braun noted the Community Charter — a piece of provincial legislation — does include a disqualification process.

“This is me, this is not the province,” Braun said of his recommendations. “I have no idea what they think of it — I might find out after today if they have any comments.”

He said he does hold some concerns around recall legislation.

“My concern is if recall legislation is legislated, you're going to have mayors and council who are more concerned about raising a controversial issue and voting no against something that may give rise to recall petition,” he said. “And so they're going to be more concerned about that than they should be about is this in the best interests of this city.”

Council wants legislative change

Coun. Kelly Hall said with Braun's completed report, the province has an opportunity to take a look at the Community Charter and make some amendments, noting many communities in B.C. are having challenges with council dysfunction.

Braun’s report concluded Mayor Reid Hamer-Jackson’s combativeness and reluctance to admit error or take responsibility for his actions has contributed significantly to unprecedented dysfunction at city hall.

"The outcome we wanted from this report was changes legislatively, so that it prevents this type of action from ever happening again. It's not just in Kamloops, you’re seeing it in other communities as well,” Hall said.

“There's got to be some provisions put in place. ... I just don't think the Community Charter has changed to keep up with the change of what's happening within municipal governments.”

Hall said he wouldn’t be surprised if the B.C. government looked at other measures such as integrity commissioners for municipalities. He said council will be discussing a lot of Braun's recommendations, and “we’ll see which ones we can start moving forward on.”

On the heels of Braun’s report, Anne Kang, minister of municipal affairs, said in a statement to Castanet Kamloops that her ministry will be available for further support as council looks to move forward.

“I expect all members of council to work together to focus on good governance to serve the people of Kamloops. I recognize that implementing the advice from the municipal advisor will take time,” she said.

“The Ministry of Municipal Affairs will continue to be available provide guidance and additional support.”

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