Qualicum Beach council gave first and second reading to a bylaw that would increase council’s size from five to seven members.
Both first and second reading were passed 3–2, during council’s Feb. 23 regular meeting, with Mayor Brian Wiese and Coun. Scott Harrison opposed. Both council members indicated they believe the issue should be put on the fall municipal election ballot.
“We’re essentially changing how our democracy functions, to some extent, and so you should ask the public, do you want us to change how our democracy functions,” Harrison said. “I have a hard time justifying doing it without going to the public and having a reasonable debate during an election.”
Coun. Anne Skipsey said the town received about 120 messages in support of increasing the council to seven members and only 41 opposed. She added most of the opposed cited cost or the misconception the town would need to incorporate as a city as their reasons.
“There was an opportunity, actually, to go to the voters and that was in the byelection and this council decided not to, so I think that was probably a missed opportunity,” Skipsey said.
Wiese pointed out town byelections tend to have a significantly lower voter turnout than general elections. The 2018 election recorded a 57.46 per cent turnout, while the 2021 byelection had a 40.7 per cent voter turnout.
The bylaw will need to pass third reading before it can be adopted. If it is adopted before April 15, a seven-member council will be elected this October. If it is adopted after that date, the change will not take effect until the next general election in 2026.
During its Feb. 9 special meeting, council voted not to direct staff to prepare a report on the cost implications of conducting a survey, according to Heather Svensen, the town’s corporate administrator and deputy chief administrative officer.