Help wanted: B.C. hiring municipal advisers to assist local governments
New position will assist village councils of Harrison Hot Springs, Lions Bay: municipal affairs minister
Two small towns in B.C. are having such big problems that the provincial government is hiring two outside "municipal advisers" to help provide guidance and advice.
"Local governments deserve to have a safe working environment," said Minister of Municipal Affairs Anne Kang, describing why the province put forward the job posting earlier this month for the two new position.
Kang said the advisers will assist the village councils of Harrison Hot Springs and Lions Bay after they both called on the government for help less than six months into their terms in office.
Both villages on the outskirts of the Lower Mainland have seen the election of new mayors and the subsequent departures of most senior staff, with public feuding between the mayor and established councillors.
Lions Bay was unable to agree on the terms of a needed byelection after the resignation of a councillor, while Harrison Hot Springs councillors have held several private meetings without the mayor, at one of them passing a vote of no confidence against him.
The province's posting says the adviser will "provide a mentorship and coaching role for council members and senior staff to support effective communication and decision-making," and "assist council to develop capacity for resolving conduct issues and decision making."
Kang said the hope was for the adviser to act more as a conversation facilitator, but did not rule out the possibility they could issue recommendations that her ministry could then act on.
"At this point we are working to provide the local autonomy for them to make decisions and work things out on their own," she said.
"They are both smaller communities that would be able to benefit by additional staff capacity."
The job posting are for three to six months, and comes a maximum of $75,000 for the first three months.
Gavel stealing, Hitler accusations
While small town disagreements are nothing new, the number of them happening across the province so soon after an election has caught the eye of many observers.
In the last two weeks on Vancouver Island, a council meeting in the town of Tahsis descended into a shouting match, with one councillor stealing a gavel from another, while a councillor in North Saanich resigned after calling the mayor "Mr. Hitler" following a disagreement over recording the meetings of an Official Community Plan advisery committee.
"We're seeing more combustible relationships between certain members of certain councils ... and sometimes between community members as well, and I think we're seeing severity of threats grow," said Aaron Stone, mayor of Ladysmith and chair of the Cowichan Valley Regional District.
Stone said the district is considering hiring an ethics commissioner, something many municipalities have called on the province to institute to oversee all municipalities. And while Kang told CBC News she hasn't heard worry from local politicians about increased dysfunction and hostility, Stone said it was a marked topic of conversation.
"I think it's all been magnified through the struggles and strains that COVID created, and then it's been compounded by inflation, and people feeling in their daily lives worse," he said.
"There's a growing general sense of frustration, and there's a larger body of people that have that level of distrust of institutions … and frankly, local government are easy targets."
- An earlier version of this story said the B.C. government was hiring one adviser to help assist municipalities needing assistance. The government has since clarified to say it is hiring two.Mar 31, 2023 1:28 PM PT