Incorporation: Harold Swierenga is Voting Yes

Listen to the wisdom of our elders: Harold Swierenga, has been a Co-op Farm Director, Commercial Farmer, Economics Professor, and has a ton experience in local governance. 8 years experience as municipal councillor and reeve of municipality in Ontario. Served as Warden (head) of Lanark County Council. Served as a director of Federation of Canadian Municipalities, Association of Counties and Regions of Ontario and Municipal Liason Committee. Served on Health Unit Board, County Planning Board, Visitor and Convention Board Director of farm co-operative Operated a commercial farm 35 years professor of economics Founding member of SSI Transportation Commission Member and chair of SSI Ferry Advisory Committee Here are his insights about Salt Spring Governance.
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Incorporation: The More Beautiful Our Hearts Know Is Possible

In The More Beautiful World our Hearts Know is Possible, Charles Eisenstein very clearly distinguishes that we are in the process of transitioning from an Old Economy, that ensures our demise, to a New Economy that is essential, not optional, if we are to survive as a species. (He is very clear that the transition from New Economy to Old Economy will not be smooth.) I think it might be useful to frame the incorporation debate inside our necessary transition to the New Economy. Water. In 1992, I sat on the SSI Sustainable Roundtable and we distinguished that what mattered most to SS islanders was the quality and availability of water. We identified many water management problems that needed a holistic solution.Twenty five years later we are in the same place, if not worse. Inside the New Economy what could the water situation look like on SSI? We could harvest rainwater, all of us. The Water Works could be a group of people who help you with your rainwater harvesti…
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Incorporation: Where Is the Larger Voice?

Salt Spring is in the midst of an incorporation campaign as everyone on our island knows. But who else knows? I love all our Gulf Islands and want to protect them all from over and inappropriate development. I have a hard time abiding views of others who can only see what is good for them personally or for their island only, for that matter. I have been fortunate to visit all the Gulf Islands many times and know they are each unique and all special and in need of protection. I am wondering where is the voice of other islanders, who will feel the effects of Salt Springs Incorporating on them? Why have they been left out of this decision? Where indeed is the voice of the rest of the Province? After all, these Islands were put in a Trust for all British Columbians by an ALL party vote (one of those rare times in history where all the political parties agreed with each other). Dave Barrett (NDP BC’s premier at the time) always felt it was one of his greatest legacies…
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Incorporation: The Facts About Our Roads

The Final Incorporation Study Report repeats, at least eight times, that Salt Spring taxpayers put pay $90,000 more per year into the in Provincial Rural Taxes than they get back in road works. How accurate is this? The report estimates that an average of $1,360,000 was spent annually in routine maintenance in recent years, or $5,100 per km. This closely matches MOTI’s reported average maintenance cost of $5,000 per km for all B.C. public roads. Since maintenance services were privatized in 2001, MOTI can’t find out what SSI road maintenance costs, because road-contractor’s books are closed to public scrutiny. Also, our road contractor, Mainroad, shuffles equipment and personnel within its South Coast contract area, making an inseparable mix of those monies spent. Thus, MOTI applied the B.C. average, as the most certain figure they have. For all road works beyond this regular maintenance, the report says that MOTI spent about $500,000 annually over the last 15 or so years…
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Incorporation: Response to Open Letter to the Fire District Board of Trustees

A group of ex-Fire Board Trustees have written a letter to the current trustees chastising them for not coming out in favour of incorporation after an attempt was made to strong arm them to do so. Our current trustees sensibly waited to hear what the “no” folks had to say. That group didn't ask the Trustees to come out in favour of no. They requested that the Trustees remain neutral on the basis that there was nothing to support it being in their ratepayers’ interest for them to express a bias. The referendum itself would allow their ratepayers to indicate their preferences. In addition, the “no” group came with well-researched information about how the Fire Board could find additional funding without incorporating and advised that Fire Departments all over the province rarely receive major infrastructure grants from senior governments. The Trustees appeared grateful for the information and deferred the matter and subsequently decided to stay neutral. Effective enforcemen…
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Incorporation: North Salt Spring Waterworks District and Funding Options

The North Salt Spring Waterworks District (“NSSWD”) is, by far, the largest water Improvement District on the island with well over 2,000 connections including commercial properties in Ganges, schools and the hospital. Faced with a major investment program to meet provincial regulations, including new treatment plants at St. Mary Lake and Maxwell Lake and raising the Duck Creek Weir on St. Mary Lake, it has raised its water rates as well as its annual parcel tax rate and began building a Capital Reserve Fund through a surcharge on water bills. Recently, it announced that a contract had been awarded for work to begin on the St. Mary Lake treatment plan, funded by capital reserves and a $7 million loan, approved by ratepayers in 2015. In October, 2016, the District Board of Trustees considered the challenge of funding the proposed capital program in the event of a no vote to incorporation and concluded that District ratepayers would be unable to support the significant increas…
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Incorporation: How a ‘Farmer’ Mayor Changed Me from Yes to No to Yes!

I went from a staunch YeSS! voter to a PosNo voter … and then the more I supported the PosNo’s position and saw how much they want to preserve and protect (which I do), prevent rampant development (which I do as well), save our precious farmers (love buying local!) and prevent runaway tax increases (yeah, that to!!) – I realized the only way to achieve what the PosNo side wants is for all of us to vote YeSS! and then vote the PosNo supporters into power by electing them as council and mayor! Win win!! Confused yet? Quite the Catch-22, wouldn’t you say? Here’s what happened to me today and why for about 30 minutes I was totally convinced we couldn’t possibly vote YeSS! and still preserve & protect this beautiful island we call home. I reached out to Mayor Ranns of Metchosin via email two days ago and he personally called me this morning. He has been a farmer forever, on council since 1987 and is now in his sixth term as Mayor. To say I was nervous to speak with him is an u…
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Incorporation: Ron Cooke on Voting Yes

Ron Cooke is involved in a number of affordable housing projects. He is voting yes. "I have lived on Salt Spring for 29 years, raised a family here and worked as a carpenter and later in home design - quite often in conjunction with Rammed Earth. I serve on the Board of Directors at Salt Spring Island Community Services."
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Incorporation: A Municipal Engineer's Perspective

This article is written for those who are currently undecided relative to the upcoming incorporation referendum, and are interested in reading a Municipal Engineer's perspective before making a decision. I am not one who writes articles to local papers; however, after having received the Positively No flyer in the mail I thought it prudent to provide my observations. My background is in municipal engineering consulting with most of my 30 year career providing planning and engineering services to small cities, towns, villages, rural counties and municipal districts in western Canada. More specifically I provided guidance to Councils relative to existing infrastructure rehabilitation and new infrastructure spending. In helping these communities attain their goals, it became apparent that working with both the Provincial and Federal levels of governments was a necessity. What was most noticeable to me was that the closer the level of government was to the people the more efficient…
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Incorporation: What Can a Water District Do?

The North Salt Spring Water District needs money: to raise the Duck Creek weir and for an eventual treatment plant at Maxwell Lake. Their board has recommended incorporation as the best option for raising those funds. But is it? The Facts Accessing government grants does not mean receiving Far from it: applications to the Canada 150 Community Infrastructure Program totalled almost 7 times the available funds the Gas Tax Agreement Strategic Priorities Fund has 11 separate criteria for funding; raising a weir and building a conventional water treatment plant meet few of them On Salt Spring, NSSWD would compete for scarce funding with projects like road upgrades, new fire hall, town hall, sewage treatment plant upgrade, etc. With incorporation all taxpayers face greater financial burdens and liabilities: road repair and maintenance, higher policing costs, many municipal expenses. Higher taxes could cancel out any benefit from possible grants. Better Op…
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Incorporation: Report Card on Local Governance

Progress on SSI under the current local governance structure; With another incorporation drive underway, we should not forget the considerable progress that has been achieved on Salt Spring Island under the existing Capital Regional District/Islands Trust local government structure since the 2002 referendum rejecting incorporation. The initiatives cover community facilities, housing, agriculture, energy and climate change, transportation, water, land use planning, economy, land conservation, solid and liquid waste. These initiatives have helped to build a healthy and vibrant community, preserved our natural heritage and created jobs on the island. Progress Report Collaboration among the Islands Trust, CRD & improvement districts, together with active and engaged community volunteers and access to millions of dollars of Federal and Provincial Government funding, have resulted in many major initiatives on Salt Spring Island, including: Community Facilities …
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Incorporation: Will be a Disaster for Local Farms

Indeed, incorporation will be a disaster for local farms. David Borrowman—a former local trustee for the Islands Trust—wrote: "Once the rhetoric has settled, I expect that incorporation would mean moving from an under-serviced rural area to an impoverished municipality.” If Salt Spring wants to remain a rural area, it makes sense to look at what could happen to the farming economy if we were to vote to incorporate. We know that farmers will be hardest hit by property tax increases. The provincial Farm Tax Exemption for farmers’ homes and buildings will be phased out over five years. The Urban Systems’ incorporation report estimates that farm property taxes would increase by $194/year on average, a 10% increase. Increases applied to all residential property would raise taxes even further. The district of West Kelowna incorporated in 2008. Five years later, after the transition period, farmers faced property tax increases of up to 240%, whereas the average homeowner had in…
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Incorporation: Positive, Low-risk Alternatives to Municipal Incorporation

Positive, Low-risk Alternatives to Municipal Incorporation We don’t need to incorporate: Improvements to our existing governance can be made without the increased road and policing costs and other risks of incorporation. Shockingly, the provincial government official overseeing the 2013-2016 Salt Spring Island governance and incorporation studies directed the committees and their consultants not to consider improvements that could be made under our existing form of governance. The committees were told that incorporation was the only alternative they could consider, even though existing provincial legislation allows numerous, less drastic changes. A Local Community Commission and other options: In 2010, a BC government official advised local elected representatives to consider converting improvement districts (water and fire) to CRD local service areas and creating additional CRD commissions to manage CRD service delivery: “Establishing a local community commission (LCC)…
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Incorporation: Fire and Water - Extreme Hazard

One of the reasons I will vote Yes is that there are problems that cannot be fixed under our current system. It doesn’t matter how optimistic one is. There are structural impediments built in today that no amount of hard work or co-operation or good will can fix. Let me describe just one. We have a fire department operated by what is called an improvement district, an archaic entity that has some of the smatterings of local government but that was really intended for tiny operations like three farmers sharing a well and a pumphouse, not performing important public safety tasks in a community of 10,000 strong. The fire district’s purpose – and this comes from legislation and what are called letters patent – is to prevent and if necessary suppress damage from uncontrolled fires. To fight fires, you need specialized equipment, well trained staff, and water. The fire district can buy equipment and train staff, but relies on others for water. On Salt Spring, the water comes fr…
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Incorporation: Mickey McLeod on Voting Yes

Mickey McLeod, CEO, co-founder and owner (with Robbyn Scott) of Salt Spring Coffee has lived on Salt Spring Island since Aug 1981 and has been a self-employed businessman employing a couple hundred people on Salt Spring Island during this time. "The current governance system has proven not to support visionary business leaders who want to do good for the community, provide gainful employment and help change the dial on how business can be conducted in today's world. Salt Spring Island could be a world class example how to do this, but the system is broken. In order to accomplish this, there is currently no plan and no vision. Leaving these kinds of decisions up to two people ( the two trustees on the Islands Trust at any given time) can have devastating costly affects, so I am voting YESS on Sept 9th.
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Incorporation: The Local Community Commission Option

This article attempts to correct some of the misleading and even false information presented by the Yes campaign and Urban Systems regarding the Local Community Commission (LCC) and other governance options. Urban Systems was the provincially-approved consultant hired to conduct the Salt Spring governance and incorporation studies. This article is long because there is so much misinformation to undo and so many information gaps to fill. In an August 2nd Facebook post, “Yes” advocate John Macpherson claimed that a Local Community Commission for Salt Spring is “not a legislatively available option”.  This is simply false. It is a distorted echo of a claim by Urban Systems that “… provincial legislation provides for either maintaining the status quo as an unincorporated electoral area or incorporating as a municipality.” In fact, the Local Government Act Part 6 provides the legislative basis for establishing an LCC within our existing unincorporated governance model. Urban S…
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Incorporation: Celia Duthie & Nick Hunt on Voting Yes

Celia Duthie & Nick Hunt ran Duthie Books in Vancouver for 20 plus years and have lived on Salt Spring since 2004. They opened Salt Spring Woodworks which later became the Duthie gallery. They are active members of the arts community on the island. "We both support the incorporation of the island and will be voting yes in the referendum. We feel that the island is ready for independence from Victoria and mature enough for self-government. We feel the island needs broader representation and more progressive pro-active planning for the future."
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Incorporation: Robin Williams on Voting Yes

Robin Williams -- on the demolition of the Fulford Inn by the CRD Building Inspection Department based in Victoria. Salt Spring resident Robin Williams is a well known community volunteer. He has chaired a CRD Commission, and is involved with The Islands Trust Fund, which is the land conservation side of Islands Trust. Here Robin speaks about one of the most sad moments in recent Salt Spring history.
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Incorporation: Liz Anderson on Voting Yes

Liz Anderson, a former Notary Public and Marriage Commissioner moved to Salt Spring in 1989. An active volunteer in the community, she has served on the Board of Community Services, been involved with the Tennis Association; Sailing Club; GIFTS (Gulf Islands Family Together Society which works transitioning young adults with disabilities into adult programs); as well as GISNA (Gulf Islands Special Needs Association which worked with the School District in providing services to students with special needs). She has served the Hospice Society for the last 10 years. "Our daughter Suzy, who has an intellectual disability, was our inspiration for forming the Therapeutic Riding Association in 2001. I continue to be heavily involved in the program as I am acutely aware of the incredible benefits to not only the riders, but also their families, the volunteers and the community. I am voting Yes because I want an elected council made up of Salt Springers; a council that is accessib…
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