Election 2014: Hope voters to have say on council size

District of Hope: A referendum on the issue will held during this fall's municipal election

Hope voters will have an extra question on the ballot when they head to the polls this fall.

Council unanimously voted on Monday to hold a referendum regarding the size of council.

Voters will specifically be asked whether they’re in favour of reducing the number of councillors from six to four.

“I’m opposed to it but I think we should let the community decide,” said Coun. Scott Medlock, noting there would be no additional costs associated with holding the referendum during the municipal election.

“I think it’s less representation and I think the dollar for council that we get from the community is well worth it. I don’t think we want to see a reduction in voices sitting around the table here.”

Coun. Peter Robb also voiced concerns over a reduced council size  despite supporting the referendum. He pointed out that the added workload  due to fewer councillors could make it harder to attract good candidates in the future.

Mayor Susan Johnston said she’s already received public feedback on the issue. Some people believe it’s not fair for council to vote for their own jobs, while others have noted that it wouldn’t be prudent to reduce the size of council given the population growth expected over the next couple years.

“We have to put this on the ballot and let the taxpayers make the ultimate decision,” she said. “But once you go that way, it’s takes a really long time to get it back.”

Based on Hope’s population of 6,185, the current number of councillors is in line with comparable municipalities.

For example, Merritt (6,998), Kimberley (6,139) and Smithers (5,217) all have six councillors while smaller communities like Gibsons (4,182), Kent (4,738), and Metchosin (4,795) have four.

Any change to council size would take effect for the 2018 municipal election.