KAMLOOPS - With Mayor Peter Milobar seeking a seat in Victoria, the mayor's chair may open up in Kamloops council chambers.
For now, Milobar will remain mayor, he says, but would take a leave of absence during the official campaign period if he receives the B.C. Liberal Party nomination. If elected to a seat in the provincial legislature, he says he'd help the city transition to a new mayor.
“Typically the mayors will take a leave of absence once the writ gets dropped,” he says. “I certainly would not expect to still be actively the mayor while the writ period is happening.”
Milobar would not resign unless elected to the provincial legislature, but it’s unclear what exactly will happen at a municipal level if he ultimately wins the Kamloops-North Thompson seat.
“Once the election is over council can figure out what direction they want to go,” he says. “I’m comfortable with whichever direction we ultimately take.”
A by-election would be the next natural step, but calling one could raise complications.
“Whereas I don’t have to resign to run for a different level of office, a councillor would have to resign to run for a seat as the mayor in a by-election,” Milobar says. “If that was to take place and a couple decided to do that, you could have a quite few empty seats and it might be more pragmatic for me to stay on until the by-election happened just so we have enough people to actually have a quorum around the council table.”
Some councillors were on hand for Milobar’s announcement, but none would say if they were interested in his job if it opened up.
The provincial election has a fixed date of May 9, 2017. If a by-election is called, it would likely happen in the summer or fall of 2017. Municipal elections in B.C. are scheduled for Oct. 20, 2018, which would mean the new mayor might only hold the position for just over a year. If a sitting councillor is elected — or runs for mayor and fails to be elected — those byelections would come with roughly one year before the next municipal election.
Until the local B.C. Liberal Party riding association chooses a nominee, Milobar will be mayor of Kamloops. He says past experiences in municipal and regional politics means he won’t have any issue balancing the two roles.
“The fortunate part about being the mayor is that we don’t shut down city hall when we’re in the middle of a municipal campaign,” he says.
Balancing the role of mayor and interest in provincial politics is not unique to Milobar, as his predecessor for mayor, Terry Lake, also ran for a provincial seat while mayor. More recently Dan Ashton, former Penticton mayor and current MLA for the Penticton riding, was in a similar position as Milobar is in now. Ashton eventually resigned as mayor a month after winning a seat in the legislature. He also offered to cover some of the costs of the city’s by-election to replace him.
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