B.C. councillors, mayors convicted of serious crimes should resign: proposal
Pitt Meadows, B.C. Mayor John Becker speaks to CTV News on Sept. 11, 2018.
Published Tuesday, September 11, 2018 6:38PM PDT
Mayors and city councillors who are charged with serious crimes should have to take a paid leave, and if convicted while in office, should have to step down, according to twin resolutions at an organization representing B.C. municipalities.
A challenging time at Pitt Meadows city hall, when Coun. Dave Murray was convicted of sexual touching early this year, was one reason Mayor John Becker decided to put one of the motions to a vote.
“I had to convince him to resign. It wasn’t easy. I was convinced that after that experience I had to do what was necessary to make changes to the ways local governments operate in this province,” Becker told CTV News.
Right now, a city councillor charged with a crime does not have to give up their job. And there’s nothing stopping him or her from facing down their council colleagues the next day.
In 2008, former Port Coquitlam mayor Scott Young was convicted of two counts of assault after he broke into the garage of an ex-girlfriend. Young refused calls to resign, and remained mayor until the election, where he was soundly defeated by voters.
Becker said if his resolution at the Union of B.C. Municipalities passes and is turned into legislation by the province, a mayor or councillor in Scott Young’s situation would be forced to resign.
“We had no formal mechanism to deal with the situation,” Becker said.
Another resolution put forward by Terrace city council proposes that someone charged, but not yet convicted, would take a paid leave.
Earlier this year, former Burns Lake mayor Luke Strimbold was charged with 29 counts including sexual assault, sexual interference and invitation to sexual touching, allegedly involving six people all under the age of 16 at the time.
Strimbold resigned, and a special prosecutor was appointed because of his connections to the B.C. Liberal party. But had he not, it would have been very difficult on Burns Lake council, said Terrace Coun. Stacey Tyers.
“When you have a situation like Strimbold, how would council continue functioning with their mayor facing that?” she said.
Under her proposal, someone in Strimbold’s situation would step aside while his job would be handled by an acting mayor. If convicted, he could resign, but if he is found not guilty, he could resume his role, she said.
Tyers said she picked the phrase “serious crimes” as it’s the standard used in a similar policy in Canada’s Senate. Tyers said she doesn’t want to target someone who may have been arrested and charged in a protest standing up for their political beliefs.
Such a measure might have ensnared Vancouver mayoral candidate Kennedy Stewart, who pleaded guilty to criminal contempt for protesting the Trans Mountain pipeline construction.
B.C. Housing Minister Selena Robinson, who was a city councillor in Coquitlam, said she was interested in the resolutions.
“This is a serious matter. It’s come up a number of times over the years. I look forward to hearing the debate when it comes to the floor and see where we go from there,” she said.
These resolutions should only apply to someone who is convicted or charged while in office, said Tyers. If someone has been convicted already, the charges are likely a matter of public record.
“You’re no longer eligible in this term,” she said. “If they want to run with a criminal background, that’s up to the electorate. That’s democracy.”