During the incorporation debate, one of the most significant liabilities of improvement districts was their inability to compete for federal and provincial grants. Many do not know that this is due to a British Columbia provincial policy and that some other provinces allow their improvement districts to compete for these grants.
Last month, Member of Legislative Assembly (MLA) Adam Olsen visited our Fire department, as well as the North Salt Spring Water Improvement District. Attended by three Trustees as well as CAO Andrew Peat and Chief Arjuna George, all participated in a creative and cordial conversation about the possibility of a needed-policy change to allow access to grants.
On October 17, 2017, the Fire Improvement District had written a letter to Adam asserting the unfairness that, although Salt Spring’s residents pay provincial taxes to support infrastructure needs of others, its improvement districts have no access to these funds. Spurred, also, by a November 30, 2017 letter by Selina Robinson, Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing, encouraging local representatives to reflect upon ways to move forward within Salt Spring’s existing structure, Fire Trustees asked Adam to meet with them.
Adam promised to “go to bat” for improvement districts to try to address this inequity, beginning with a conversation with Jacqueline Dawes, Deputy Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing. On an encouraging note, Adam remarked that changing policy was far, far easier than changing regulations or legislation. And, pointing out the unfairness of paying taxes with no opportunity to compete for funding was a powerful argument.
While there is still a long road ahead, there is now hope that the new government will address this unfair policy.
Fire Improvement District
Chief Administrative Officer (CAO)