The B.C. government has introduced legislation making changes to disqualify local elected officials at the time of conviction for an indictable offence.
If passed, the legislation would also require an elected official be put on mandatory paid leave when charged with a criminal offence until the criminal process is complete or the charges are resolved.
But the legislation would not work retroactively and would only include the most serious of charges.
This comes as Surrey Mayor Doug McCallum is awaiting a court appearance connected to a charge of public mischief.
A non-indicatable charge, in this case public mischief, would not lead to an elected official having to go on paid leave.
McCallum has said publicly he is innocent and the charges have not yet been tested in court.
McCallum has continued working as mayor since he was charged on Dec. 10, stemming from an investigation into his claims that someone ran over his foot at a Save-On-Foods parking lot during an altercation with opponents of the city’s police transition last September.
“Local leaders have been asking for new tools to help maintain public confidence in instances where an elected official is charged or convicted of a criminal offence,” Municipal Affairs Minister Nathan Cullen said.
“While our hope is that mandatory leave and disqualification will not need to be exercised, these amendments will help limit disruption, maintain public confidence and ensure local governments are able to remain focused on serving their communities.”
In 2019, Port Moody Mayor Rob Vagramov was charged with sexual assault.
Prosecutors stayed the charge. Vagramov decided to go on leave after intense public pressure and returned after the charges were stayed.
The changes coming from the province are a response to resolutions from the Union of BC Municipalities as well as concerns raised by local governments.
“These changes improve the current legislation by requiring a leave of absence for local elected officials charged with a criminal offence and disqualifying those upon conviction of a criminal offence,” Union of BC Municipalities president Laurey-Anne Roodenburg said.
“Local governments have asked for changes to the legislation, and these amendments strike the right balance between fairness and good governance.”