You might be surprised to read this, but you don’t have to actually live in Mission to run for mayor, council or school board.
And that has one Mission politician seeking re-election seeing red.
Coun. Ken Herar wrote about the issue on Aug. 28 in a letter to Premier John Horgan and Minister of Municipal Affairs Nathan Cullen.
“It has come to my attention that we have a candidate running in our local city election who is not currently a resident of Mission and in fact has resided outside of our community for several decades,” Herar wrote to the premier, declining to name the candidate. “It was quite an eye-opener several weeks ago when this candidate’s parent personally came and knocked on my residential door expressing concerns and shared a general statement of how people that do not live in the community should not have the ability to serve as elected officials within that community.”
For provincial and federal elections, many voters have complained about so-called “parachute” candidates running in communities in which they don’t reside.
Herar wrote in the letter that he could envision a scenario in which out-of-community candidates could seize control of a city council.
“I have serious concerns about this situation and its effects on local communities,” Herar wrote. “I strongly believe the province needs to conduct a review of the regulations and guidelines in which a candidate can run outside of the community in which they reside, while at the same time encouraging all candidates with a desire to serve and seek public office to run and participate in our shared-healthy democracy … Should a residency requirement of six months to a year be implemented, it helps to create a stronger democracy by discouraging those who may possibly have disingenuous interests within our community.”
The province told Herar in a letter that the decision to elect an individual that does not reside in the community rests with the voters of that community.
“Those voters are in the best position to determine whether they wish to be represented by an individual who, for example, lives just outside the municipal boundaries in a bordering rural area, or who lives in a neighbouring municipality and owns property or operates a business in the community where they wish to run for elected office,” said the response from the province.
“In terms of any changes to candidate eligibility in local elections, there would be many perspectives and implications to consider if legislation was amended to restrict candidates that have not been residents of a community for six months.”
One example given by the province was how such a measure could limit the potential candidate pool.
Requests for amendments to legislation often come to the province through the Union of British Columbia Municipalities (UBCM), the province said, adding that it would consider changes if receiving such a request.