After an emotional Territorial Acknowledgement, ASK Salt Spring participants welcomed our CRD Electoral Director, Gary Holman, to discuss those issues most important to us while sitting under the apple trees in the United Church Meadow. During our time together, a total of 13 Salt Springers joined us for at least part of the conversation.
When we asked Gary to begin by telling what was on his mind, he responded: water. We learned about a promising meeting, arranged by Islands Trust’s Salt Spring Island Water Protection Alliance (SSIWPA), of local water districts, including those managed by CRD as well as North Salt Spring Waterworks District (NSSWD). Gary felt the meeting was useful and was optimistic about the collaborative possibilities of regularly getting all water purveyors together. Subsequent meetings are planned, and a Terms of Reference is being developed.
Gary’s major water-related focus is the discussions between the province, NSSWD, and CRD. The main rationale for a formal relationship between these two important Salt Spring service organizations is to qualify for the large provincial infrastructure grants, by provincial policy unavailable to all Improvement Districts, like NSSWD.
Gary acknowledged that NSSWD Trustees have concerns regarding local control and still believes that the only way to clarify how these concerns can be addressed is to continue talks with NSSWD Trustees about the details of this proposed relationship. He reiterated his view that NSSWD conversion to a CRD entity is more like a merger than a takeover because of NSSWD’s on-island management and operating capacity, a capacity that CRD actually relies upon to operate some of its own systems.
Gary also understands that NSSWD ratepayers would need assurance of a provincial commitment for infrastructure funding before being asked to make a decision about conversion. Recent communication with provincial staff, shared with NSSWD, indicates that the province agrees that this assurance of funding is essential.
Interestingly, the concept of a Local Community Commission (LCC) was referenced in the consultant report funded by the province as a precursor to CRD/NSSWD discussions. Gary had advocated the establishment an elected at large LCC to oversee all CRD services on Salt Spring when he ran for election three years ago. He had delayed moving the concept forward to avoid confusion in the CRD/NSSWD discussions. For some very basic information about LCCs. If you are intrigued and want more information, please email firstname.lastname@example.org,and a number of more detailed documents will be sent to you.
Basically, a CRD LCC would be comprised of the Electoral Director as well as four to six locally-elected Commissioners. The mandate and authority of this LCC would be negotiated with CRD and could evolve over time, but in its most basic form, decisions that are now solely made by the CRD Director, like the allocation of the large annual Community Works (“gas tax”) funding, would be made, instead, by elected Commissioners and the Electoral Director in public meetings. Also, elected at large LCC Commissioners would be delegated as liaisons for some of the many services the Director now deals with alone, for example Parks and Rec, transportation, economic development, water, and wastewater. Ultimately, an elected at large LCC could consolidate and assume direct administrative authority over such services, analogous to a municipality.
A participant asked how an LCC was different from the city council of a municipality. Gary indicated there are similarities: They broaden representation, require more decision-making in public forums, and increase the capacity of elected representation that now rests with one elected official. However, Gary pointed out that an LCC was a much simpler change in governance, because it only applies to CRD services and does not require significant downloading of provincial responsibilities or impact the Islands Trust - impacts he believes underly the decisive rejection of incorporation in previous referenda, for example:
Islands Trust would retain its responsibilities for our land use, thus avoiding concerns about the weakening of its preserve and protect mandate.
The province would retain ownership and liability of 265 kilometers of poorly-built roads and significant emergency road repairs.
Funding for policing would still be provided primarily by senior governments, rather than shifting to the local community.
Gary will be continuing discussions on the LCC concept with CRD, the province, and, hopefully, NSSWD, and will have more to report later this fall.
Switching gears, Gary was asked about the need to improve our recycling services. Gary spoke of our excellent (and free to residents), recycling depot that is fully funded by Recycling BC and tipping fees from the CRD Hartland landfill at no local taxpayer cost. He acknowledged gaps, particularly for commercial, industrial, and multi-family sectors. The participant - stooping to pick up a small piece of plastic from the Meadow grass to illustrate - also asked why there were not more garbage and recycling containers in our village. Gary responded that PARC added more of these receptacles in our local parks (including the United Church Meadow over which PARC recently assumed management), but this service could be improved at taxpayer expense.
Gary did acknowledge that Ganges may need more recycling/garbage options to meet the needs of our visitors, particularly during summer. CRD recently approved an updated solid waste management plan which includes a number of strategies to improve recycling in the region. The province and federal governments have also announced plans to reduce waste, particularly regarding plastics. Gary wants to clarify whether funding, regulatory changes, or other assistance from the regional or senior government level is possible before considering an increase in local CRD taxes.
Gary was asked for an update on the community use of the middle school. We learned that CRD staff are finalizing a five-year lease agreement with the school district and PARC hopes to offer the community a tour of the facility in the fall. Gary also mentioned that our Emergency Operations Centre (EOC), currently in an earthquake-vulnerable facility, will also lease space in the school facility on a temporary basis, but the ultimate goal is to co-locate the EOC in the proposed new firehall.
The school district is currently only willing to commit to community use of the middle school for five years in case student populations increase sufficiently to warrant its re-opening. Despite this, Gary hopes that eventually the lease could be extended to allow the long-term occupation by community groups, but also the Islands Trust, CRD Building Inspection, and CRD administration office, each currently paying commercial rental rates totaling an estimated $135,000 annually. In theory, if this local government use of the middle school were to become possible, a longstanding goal of consolidating local government offices could be achieved. Also, these taxpayer-funded rental expenditures could potentially be reduced while also subsidizing other non-profits to use the middle school at a reduced rate.
A participant then spoke of his deep roots on Salt Spring from a family of loggers, fishermen, and farmers. A status Indian, he spoke of an upbringing that sought to integrate rather than retain an Indigenous identity. Only in the 1980s, when descendants of women who had lost their status by leaving the Reserve had their status reinstated, did this participant and his extended family begin to explore and embrace their rich Indigenous heritage.
Unrecognized by First Nations governments, these local Salt Springers have formed a society, the Coast Salish Peoples of Salt Spring Island. They are seeking a place at the table of those bodies governing Salt Spring, their home for generations. While Gary assured us that CRD follows all the legal First Nations consultation requirements on a project-by-project and government to government basis, he had no immediate answer to this participant’s request for more active participation in local decisions. This is a complex issue, in part dependent upon forthcoming BC legislation to operationalize the Declaration of Indigenous Rights. Despite its complexity and many unanswered questions, as our time together ended, Gary continued this intriguing conversation with this participant long after others had left the Meadow.
Genuinely appreciating Gary for spending these hours with us the second Friday of every month and for sharing his knowledge, concerns and hopes with us, we began to disperse. As we packed up chairs, we savoured the lovely late summer day that had allowed us to gather safely outdoors under the apple trees for a while longer.
Please join us Friday, September 17, 11-1 to welcome Islands Trustee, Laura Patrick. While we hope to gather in the United Church Meadow, if it rains, as predicted, we will gather at the Portlock Picnic Pavilion on Vesuvius Bay Road. (Beware: the winds do whistle there - please dress warmly and bring your favorite hot beverage!)
Would you like to learn more about:
The Housing Task Force?
The Ganges Village Plan Task Force?
What is happening with the promised community engagement for the hotly-debated Policy Statement?
What can you tell us about the Dragonfly Housing Development?
And. . . .
Come to the Meadow to ask your questions, listen to those of others, and participate in rich, respectful conversations.
Bring your favorite beverage and a smile.
Chairs and chocolate chip cookies provided.
See you at the Meadow!
Any question, anytime: email@example.com
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