The Salt Spring Island governance referendum vote will be held on September 9th. The two options will be to remain with the status quo or to move to a municipal model. Many have asked for my opinion, which I believe is appropriate to share. My experience in local government is extensive and I believe as a politician on Salt Spring is unique. I have had first- hand experience as an elected local politician in both systems of local governance, first as a municipal councillor in the Village of Lions Bay and second as a two term Electoral Area Director for Salt Spring Island. I also have had decades of experience in various capacities in both provincial and municipal governance matters.
I will be voting yes and will give a few very specific examples of why. Most will agree that the most effective governance models have a structure appropriate for their community and elected officials who support moving their community priorities forward .In addition, crucial to effective local government are strategic planning, priority setting, local decision making, centralized and overarching financial planning and service support.
Our current governance model has serious weaknesses in all of these areas. Three of the largest budgets impacting the Salt Spring taxpayer are the CRD, Islands Trust and the Fire Department. Sadly Salt Spring Island doesn’t have a comprehensive, multi-disciplinary strategic plan and the present system of budgeting and financial planning for Salt Spring is done in silos. As an example the CRD and Islands Trust have local government oversight but the Fire Department does not as the process is led by a Board elected only by property owners, disenfranchising many residents. The latter is also an Improvement District and not eligible for senior government funding for capital projects. None of the main budgets affecting the SSI taxpayer are prioritized, reviewed and agreed to in concert, i.e. between the CRD, Islands Trust and the Fire Department and decision making is fractured and teamwork limited.
The CRD budget is driven by service requirements with separate budgets, and approval by a 24 person Board of Directors is required, with only one Board member from Salt Spring. All these budgets are set and managed separately. In the municipal model individual budgets are set, approved and managed by a locally elected council with oversight responsibility and local, open meetings. Municipal revenues are considered in most cases general revenue and if circumstances change it is possible to consider moving money to a different budget centre or centres, unlike in our present model. The present system is complex, inflexible and formal oversight is off island.
Support for Salt Spring services is split between resources on Salt Spring for infrastructure such as waste management, CRD water districts, parks and recreation services. While we have successfully provided more resources on island with a local CRD Senior Manager and an on-island Engineer, we still have a heavy dependency on CRD headquarters resources and bear the costs when this support comes to SSI as three hours plus of travel time for each is included in the SSI service billings. I should qualify that by saying that, CRD headquarters provides some great support- when we can get it- but integrating more service support resources, including administration, on Salt Spring rather than in Victoria would build a stronger team and be more effective.
SSI governance weaknesses need to be addressed using a proven model for a community of our size. The choice is now up to the Salt Spring voters. Focus on the facts and review the material contained on the website www.latest.incorporationstudy.com above all please vote, it is our future, help define it.
Wayne McIntyre, Electoral Area Director Salt Spring Island
Editors Note: This rationale for this opinion was added to the story to give context to why/how the original piece was submitted.
Along with others, particularly the SSI Trustees and the two committees we selected , I have been involved with the two SSI studies for over five years; the first the comparison of our present governance system with the municipal model and the second a full incorporation review, including financials. The Trustees and I were stewards of the two studies and this process was completed with the delivery of the final study to the ministry on November 21, 2016; at that time the Incorporation Committee was disbanded thereby ending the formal process.
The three of us provided support as follow up to the end of the formal process and one significant commitment was made, which was completed on August 30th: the debates with three representatives on each side. With the increasing pressures to say something as an elected representative of the community and the number of statements made that were confusing or in some cases incorrect, I felt I could ad value to the process. This was based on my direct involvement with municipalities as an elected municipal councillor, community volunteer and a contractor covering decades, along with two terms as the SSI Electoral Area Director. It is not uncommon in BC for local government elected officials to give personal views on matters important to their community.
Before I presented my view, I discussed the matter with the CRD Corporate Officer and there was no issue for me to express as a personal opinion. Based on feedback a significant majority have thanked me for my insight.