The “Yes” campaign’s ads would have us believe the Islands Trust will remain unchanged under a municipality. Setting aside the obvious question — then why go to all the trouble of a referendum? — this is simply not true. Much about the Trust would change; none of it for the better.
Unlike today, Salt Spring would have no dedicated Islands Trust local trustees. Two
municipal councillors would be elected as dual councilors/trustees, a minority on the seven-person council. The other five councilors could range from indifferent to the Trust to actively hostile; they would still form the majority.
Our Local Trust Committee itself would be dissolved. We would have no Trust planners trained in the Trust’s unique approach to land-use planning. We would have no Trust office. The Trust’s capacity and visibility would be greatly diminished.
Unlike today, the degree to which the new municipality will realize the mandate of the Trust would depend on the municipal council. It could be anywhere from a hundred percent to zero. Actually, it would depend on a majority of four on that council. On Bowen Island, it has been close to zero. In their most recent posted Annual Report, from 2015, out of 82 pages the Trust is mentioned a total of three times.
Unlike today, an island municipality need only “have regard” for the Trust preserve and protect mandate. This is a far cry from the “legally bound” the ad proclaims. “Have regard” can mean whatever a majority of four councilors want it to.
And unlike today, an island municipality can do an end-run around the Islands Trust and appeal to the provincial Minister to approve bylaws that may well go against the Trust mandate.
The most fundamental change, which no amount of pseudo-“fact”mongering can obscure, is that municipal governance, by its very nature, is the disease the Islands Trust was designed to cure. Under the Trust, land use decisions are made with one overriding question in mind: will this preserve and protect the qualities that make Salt Spring Island so special. Under a municipality, newly burdened with the costs of delivering services, the overriding question has to be: how far will this go towards paying our bills.