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July 8, 2013

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Local government by-elections crucial to democracy—CUPE BC

BURNABY—In order to ensure proper representation for local governments, Premier Christy Clark should instruct her caucus members who left local council or mayors’ positions to run as MLAs to resign their local government positions so they can be replaced in by-elections, CUPE BC President Mark Hancock said today.

“There’s no question that by-elections will cost local governments, but democracy isn’t free,” said Hancock. “While councilors and mayors obviously have the right to run for provincial office, it’s not realistic to think that one person can represent a community at more than one level of government at the same time.”

“We think former Penticton Mayor Dan Ashton set the right example by resigning as Mayor, and Council has called a by-election. That’s putting citizens first,” said Hancock. “It’s too bad that longtime Surrey councilor Marvin Hunt is trying to ‘game’ the system to deny Surrey residents their right to democratic representation.”

Following the May 14 provincial election, in which 12 BC Liberal MLAs were elected from the ranks of local governments, Premier Christy Clark called on Liberal MLAs to seek leaves of absence—rather than stepping down—to eliminate the need for by-elections. Two New Democrat MLAs were also elected while sitting as councilors.

BC Liberals elected from the ranks of local government include Ashton, Langley Mayor Peter Fassbender, Pemberton Mayor Jordan Sturdy, and Surrey councilor Marvin Hunt. New Democrat MLA Selina Robinson served as a Coquitlam councilor and Jennifer Rice was a Prince Rupert councilor.

“This isn’t about partisan politics,” said Hancock. “We’d be taking this position even if the proverbial shoe was on the other foot. It’s not about causing political heartburn for the Liberals or the NDP, it’s about ensuring the necessary level of local representation and accountability.”

“The Premier should instruct her MLAs to resign from their local government positions so citizens can have their say.”

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