Politicians who quit too soon should pay by-election costs

Armchair Mayor
By Mel Rothenburger
January 23, 2018 - 5:00am Updated: January 23, 2018 - 11:02am
Image Credit: BC Government

KAMLOOPS — The Kelowna West by-election is officially underway. Unofficially, it’s been going on for months, but Premier John Horgan has finally set the date for Feb. 14 — Valentine’s Day.

It’s been months since Christy Clark announced her resignation as BC Liberal leader and as MLA for the riding.

Horgan has been in no rush to call a by-election, speculation being that he hasn’t been anxious to give the Liberals a chance to boost their numbers back up to 43 members, compared to the 44 held by NDP and Greens combined.

The Liberals will have a new leader a week and a half from now and can start looking toward the next general election.

One of the candidates for leader, Kamloops-South Thompson MLA Todd Stone, says he’d take the politics out of by-election timing and change the deadline for calling by-elections from six months to only 45 days after a seat is vacated.

That’s not a bad idea, but let’s not forget who’s responsible for the vacancy in the first place — Christy Clark. She could have resigned as leader and remained as MLA, at least until the next election.

Instead, she picked up her marbles and went home to the Coast with a pension estimated at $100,000.

Which brings up the question, once again, why taxpayers should be stuck with the cost of by-elections when politicians quit. It arose during the Kamloops civic by-election after then-mayor Peter Milobar resigned from council to run for the Liberals.

It was pointed out that Penticton mayor Dan Ashton had offered to pay the costs of a civic by-election caused by his resignation to run provincially. The cost of that by-election was estimated at $35,000. The costs for provincial by-elections run around $500,000.

Maybe, if politicians who resign had to pay by-election costs unless they’re sick or have some other good reason, they’d think twice about it. Then it wouldn’t matter whether it’s six months or 45 days.

I’m Mel Rothenburger, the Armchair Mayor.