VICTORIA — The Ministry of Municipal Affairs has introduced new tools it says will help local governments in British Columbia to act when elected officials are accused or convicted of breaking the law.

A statement from the ministry says the legislative changes will give municipalities and regional districts two separate but related options when a politician is either charged with or found guilty of a criminal offence. 

The ministry says the first amendment updates existing rules to ensure any elected person is disqualified from holding office as soon as they are convicted of an indictable offence.

The second revision orders mandatory paid leave immediately after a politician is charged with a crime.

The statement says paid leave would continue until the criminal process is complete or the charges are resolved.

It says the changes are in response to concerns raised by local governments as well as resolutions adopted by the Union of B.C. Municipalities, the voice for local governments in the province.

Nathan Cullen, minister of municipal affairs, says civic leaders have been asking for the changes for some time.

“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,” Cullen says in the statement.

In addition to rule changes surrounding disqualification of elected officials, the ministry says it is proposing alterations to eight other pieces of legislation.

Those include repealing the act that established the auditor general for local government and closing that office, allowing for more electronic meetings of local government bodies and revising the Vancouver Charter, the provincial statute that governs how Vancouver operates.

Updates to the charter will remove all gender-specific language and replace it with gender-neutral wording, the ministry says.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 7, 2022.

The Canadian Press