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Incorporation: Jacqueline Medalye on Voting No

    Editorial & Opinions, Governance & Politics    August 8, 2017

I do not involve myself in politics much any longer. I am an Islander now. I run a studio on Salt Spring and business that would qualify as a small cottage industry. From a lifetime ago, I have a PhD in Political Science with a specialization in Development Studies. When I moved here I became the interim director of the Salt Spring Forum. I am voting No to incorporation. From decades of debating political viewpoints in a research context, I feel compelled in light of the massive amount of disinformation to make my option known.

In the study of politics a critical question to ask is: Who benefits? In this case, who will benefit, specifically, from incorporation? There are many academic studies of how change in governance can result in a worse situation for the general population, the poor, the landless, the already disenfranchised and disempowered. Development is not always a good thing, if you need an example, just look at the World Bank and the millions of people its development policies continue to leave in poverty with fewer options of escape decade after decade. To understand power we must understand the socio-economic context in which change is proposed. Development does not always benefit those who people in power propose to develop. Democratic politics at the municipal level today is often run by persons of privileged (not the poor – an argument that I am seeing constantly in the current discussion of Salt Spring). If you need an extreme example just look at New York City where the city is governed by people who average an annual income of $90,000/ year. Another argument, I am constantly seeing, is that incorporation will result in better governance as fire, water, the trust, garbage, etc will be all put under one umbrella. If you need an example of how this type of theoretical argument led to the population being worse off, just look at the change of Toronto to the GTA. Water systems, transportation systems, roads, housing, and homelessness became worse. The suburban development, to accommodate a growing population, led to water table issues due to the destruction of the Oak Ridges Moraine.

While these are urban examples, with different variables, there are still valuable lessons to be learned. That’s my opinion. I understand that people will disagree and will have all kinds of counter arguments. But, I just want to be clear, that my post here is encourage people to read case studies of places other then just pointing to Bowen Island, which is effectively is becoming an alternative place to live to for commuters who want to live in a rural context rather then a Vancouver suburb. If you disagree on this Bowen island point go read some case studies, for which there are also researchers trying to understand the cultural implications and loss to heritage that this demographic shift is causing.

Please educate yourself before you vote with your own research, do not trust the opinion of politicians or the media. You will find more case studies to encourage you to vote No, than Yes. Development is very complex and always has implications we cannot understand in theory. It is only when it hits the ground, can we see who it harms and who it benefits. The majority of cases, show it to make those without power, worse off. I love Salt Spring. It isn’t perfect, but it is 99% better then anywhere else on earth. If you disagree, I encourage you to take up residence in an urban slum in Calcutta for 6 months to gain perspective on how good we all have it.

Jacqueline Medalye

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