The Governance Working Group, one of six working groups of the Salt Spring Community Alliance, includes volunteers who supported both sides in the 2017 incorporation referendum and some who remained neutral. We came together believing there were ways we could enhance how local government works within our current unincorporated system. We believe it is important to enhance democratic participation and decision-making on Salt Spring and improve the effectiveness and efficiency of service delivery.
In February 2018, we began researching and analyzing governance options in hopes of spurring an island-wide discussion of Salt Spring’s future. We identified a range of options for improvement and developed criteria to assess them. We discussed each option in depth, first testing it against three “screening criteria” to identify which options were feasible. Options that passed these criteria were scored using 17 evaluation criteria.
The highest-scoring option was a Local Community Commission (LCC), an elected body charged with the responsibility for addressing regional district services. This option scored well partly due to its potential for strengthening local decision-making by adding locally-elected commissioners and providing a structure within which additional local government services could be consolidated in the future.
Members of the Working Groups also recommend the establishment of an Inter-Agency Working Group, comprised of elected officials and decision-making agencies. Regularly-scheduled meetings open to the community would focus on a coordinated approach to solving island-wide issues. While not a decision-making body, this group would provide a forum for enhanced communication and integration among Salt Spring’s decision-making agencies.
We also discussed and analyzed a variety of other initiatives that could enhance local governance on Salt Spring. The initiatives that appeared to have the greatest merit are included in our recommendations.
- We recommend that Salt Spring Island’s locally-elected representatives convene a multi-agency meeting shortly after 2018 local government elections to identify actions that can be taken immediately to enhance local government decision-making and coordination. Such actions might include:
- Creating an Inter-Agency Working Group
- Implementing an annual survey of community needs and local government performance
- We recommend that Salt Spring Island’s locally-elected representatives seek provincial funding for a community-led action plan for longer-term enhancements to Salt Spring Island governance and service delivery. This work should begin as soon as possible after the 2018 local government elections, have its scope and terms of reference developed in consultation with the community, target completion within 12 months and include the full involvement of the Capital Regional District, the Islands Trust and other relevant agencies. Development of the action plan should determine whether the Province is open to legislative and policy changes in the areas mentioned in this report and should include consideration of:
- Establishing a Salt Spring Island Local Community Commission
- Enhancing the role of non-profit agencies in local government service delivery on Salt Spring
- Strengthening CRD collaboration with and support for existing improvement districts
- We recommend that the Province of British Columbia fund and support a community-led process to develop an action plan for longer-term enhancements to Salt Spring Island governance and service delivery.
- We recommend that Islands Trust Council:
- Follow through on its proposed review of Trust governance and service delivery, including examination of ways to substantially reduce or eliminate Salt Spring’s subsidization of local planning services on other islands
- Commission an independent evaluation of the Salt Spring Island Watershed Protection Alliance to determine whether its current tax requisition is delivering value for money
- We recommend that the Capital Regional District and the Salt Spring Island Electoral Area Director:
- Facilitate dedicated administrative support for the Salt Spring CRD Director
- Involve commissioners and community members at an early stage of any consideration of restructuring CRD commissions