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Incorporation: Forward, Not Backward: Trusting Cooperation over Conflict

    Editorial & Opinions, Governance & Politics    September 6, 2017

Having run in the 2011 Islands Trust election as a clear opponent of yet another referen- dum on incorporation, I have been asked my position this time around. Has my view changed? First, I would like to thank those on both sides of this debate for the substance and tone

of their appeals. Unfortunately, I once again find that those seeking incorporation offering ar- guments that are ill-timed, misplaced and taking us backward just at a time when we should be seeking out and moving forward with innovative and trail-blazing forms of governance able to deal with pressing local, regional and global issues such as climate change, housing and refugees. In our context, we have had the innovative Islands Trust leading the way since 1974. It deserves our continuing support. Undermining its scope and purpose would be a step back- ward.

Incorporation is not the only option. We all know what the many nearby municipalities look like. Many of us have chosen to live here precisely because we have experienced what municipalities do and how they are run and we don’t like what we see. We have concluded that there must be a better way and the better way we have found in the BC’s Gulf Islands takes the form of the Islands Trust. We did not come here to create and run a municipality. Many of us who have come to Salt Spring since the founding of the Islands Trust were aware that we were coming to somewhere different, somewhere nonconformist, somewhere the governance struc- ture relied on cooperation, not conflict. That’s why we came.

It has been argued that incorporation and self-rule will give us the necessary tools to de- termine our future ourselves. It will make us more democratic we are told. “Salt Spring for Salt Springers” – with decisions being made by Salt Springers alone – is the dangerously nationalis- tic, eerily exclusive (tell me again why this referendum falls on Gay Pride Day?!) and unfortu- nately backward call to arms. It soft pedals the need for Salt Springers to work with our neigh- bours on nearby islands to preserve and protect our lands and resources. Cooperation is given lip service, with the current governance structure said to hold us back and undermine our sov- ereignty. Our roles as stewards, managing these beautiful islands cooperatively on behalf of all British Columbians and indeed all Canadians and citizens of the world, are quietly down played by the incorporationists. Yet, we, together with our neighbours on other Gulf Islands, are on the same team and for good reason, especially when you consider that we are living in an integrat- ed regional ecosystem.

So just because you may not have gotten your way in dealing with the Islands Trust at one time or another in the past does not mean we should go backward, in the process under- mining the Trust’s viability by undercutting the participation of its largest member and throwing our inspiringly innovative, impressively successful and admittedly not yet perfect baby out with the bath water. If the Trust hadn’t turned down some development proposals over the years, it would not have been doing its “preserve, protect and sometimes piss off” job. Salt Spring does not need a mayor and council. No new toys for boys, thank you very much. Remember what happened 1883, the last time we were a municipality. We got rid of them then and I for one hope we don’t invite them back. Incorporation is a thing of the past. Incorporate in 2017? Posi- tively, no! Forward, not backward, please.

The author is a retired university professor turned cheesemaker who ran for office in Salt Spring’s 2011 Islands Trust election.

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