A politician should have to serve for a full term unless death or unlawful activity cuts short the career.
If you run for a four-year term, you serve a four-year term, or until the next election is called. That’s your obligation as a candidate, what you signed on for when you ‘answered the ad.’ Let’s just say it’s in your contract with the voter. I won't disagree if you tell me four years is too long.
Politicians who leave mid-term for their own convenience lay open seats to be filled in expensive by-elections.
We have two such examples in the Province of Ontario right now with Dwight Duncan (Windsor) and Chris Bentley (London), both MPPs and cabinet members making quick exits. They’re flying the Queen’s Park coop: A premature evacuation?
That’s an expensive exit strategy! The cost of a provincial by-election must be in the quarter million dollar range. Under my scenario these elected legislators continue to serve as MPPs until the next general election or they pay the cost of refilling their seats.
People living in an area represented by an early-quitter are disadvantaged for up to six months. Their legislative legs just walked out on them and they have no voice in parliament. Then all of Ontario joins in to fork over the dough to run forced by-elections.
Suggesting that candidates pay the cost of a by-election is neither new nor is it unprecedented.
I learned as a municipal candidate that it is possible a government will demand payment for the cost of a by-election. I go back to a letter I received from the City of Toronto Clerk in 1999 informing me that if I won the contested seat (a vacancy due to a death in office) the city would come after me for the cost of a new by-election. “For your information the cost of a by-election is between $165,000 and $200,000,” said the letter from top bureaucrat, Novina Wong.
Okay, this was over a logo dispute that was tame compared to the one that bubbled up in Surrey BC recently. The town launched and then withdrew a lawsuit against a local t-shirt maker who parodied Surrey’s logo on apparel.
Here I still have in my possession a letter suggesting I pay for a by-election for reasons both silly and nonsensical. So what about these guys who step down early from their well-paying, elected posts and saddle the public with an expensive election exercise?
The cost of many a by-election could be avoided altogether if politicians stayed put and lived to the terms of their agreement, as many have. I concede this does make it hard for them to jump to other levels of government mid-term. Jury's still out on whether that's good or bad.