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No Confidence 101: What does a non-confidence vote do?

Province has no role in non-confidence votes
A protest sign reading “Hey hey, ho ho, the 4 councillors have to go” was set up next to the Sasquatch carving at the village entrance. (Screenshot/Leslie Ghezesan)

It has been nearly a month since the Harrison Hot Springs councillors notified Mayor Ed Wood of a vote of no confidence.

In provincial and federal political arenas, if non-confidence votes passed, it could trigger a new election or a majority party would be given the chance to form government. However, as the village does not run under a parliamentary system, this non-confidence vote would not trigger anything of the sort. Municipal bylaws also do not have any reference to what may happen with a vote of no confidence.

So, what does a non-confidence vote do?

A Brief Background

After an embattled three months into the new Harrison Hot Springs council term, disagreements among elected officials culminated in a vote of no confidence against the mayor. The notice of this vote came in the form of a letter to Wood, signed by all four councillors – John Buckley, Leo Facio, Allan Jackson and Michie Vidal. Wood made the council’s intentions public during the Feb. 21 regular village council meeting.

While Wood told the council he would allow a hearing on the matter, he explicitly refused to attend meetings that were closed to the public. He further condemned the vote as “a calculated ambush on the mayor’s office and an assault on my personal professional standing.”

On Thursday, March 9, The Observer submitted a Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act request to the village to obtain a copy of the official notice. Village officials have not issued a response as of press time.

Censures and Non-Confidence Votes

While a non-confidence vote seems to be unprecedented in local history, there have been similar proceedings in the past in the form of two censure votes.

Censure votes and non-confidence votes are somewhat similar. A censure vote can be seen as a formal declaration of strong disapproval from a governing body against the words or actions of one of its members.

RELATED: SD78 board member censured, again

Conversely, a vote of no confidence is a declaration that a member of a governing body does not support a leader or government.

Back in 2016, former Fraser-Cascade School District trustee Rose Tustian was censured for making disparaging comments in public meetings concerning an employee of the district, former transportation supervisor Dan Landrath. The board issued an apology on behalf of Tustian. The investigative costs and legal fees cost the district approximately $48,000.

Tustian was censured a second time in 2018 for “disclosing confidential information to the public on multiple occasions during the calendar year 2017.” Tustian was barred from all confidential meetings.

Like a vote of no confidence, censure votes are mostly symbolic. However, both can and often do carry further consequences. For example, a no-confidence vote may mean Wood might have difficulties making changes he wishes to see in the village as he is limited to one vote against the council’s four.

RELATED: Harrison council calls for no-confidence vote against Mayor Ed Wood

Provincial intervention?

Harrison Hot Springs residents have been active not only in engaging in council meetings the past few weeks, but some have gone so far as to contact the provincial government for intervention.

In part due to a lack of precedent, the province’s role in resolving the predicament in Harrison is not clear and likely limited.

Representatives from the Ministry of Municipal Affairs told The Observer that local government legislation in B.C. doesn’t contain provisions or procedures for non-confidence votes.

“There is no formal role for the Ministry, but should mayor and council collectively decide to formally request assistance, the Ministry would consider what support or guidance might be available,” the ministry stated.

The Observer has also reached out to the B.C. Ombudsperson’s office and the Inspector of Municipalities for further comment.


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About the Author: Adam Louis

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