Editorial: Change is on the table with LCC discussion

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Unlike many similar-sized communities, local governance is often on a Salt Spring Island “hot topics” list.

Trying to understand who is responsible for what in our rural unincorporated system in the Islands Trust Area and Capital Regional District is not for the faint of heart. A proposal to consolidate some current CRD commissions on the island and elect four or six individuals to oversee those as a “local community commission” (LCC) might not make it any easier to understand, but it is an idea worth discussing, at least.

The LCC idea has been floated by current Salt Spring CRD director Gary Holman. Looking into it was an election promise he made back in 2018. A discussion paper on the subject written by a handful of knowledgeable individuals (but not Holman) was released last week.

The paper asks islanders to consider a relatively simple change in local governance.

It’s a concept that on paper seems to have some merit. We would have more elected people sitting down at one table to discuss some island matters. It could reduce the current “silo” effect of governance if, for example, LCC members can consider overlapping parks and transportation issues at the same time. Members of the public might be more likely to attend a bi-monthly meeting of elected officials where more than one commission topic was on the agenda.

But how much power an LCC is ultimately granted will be an important consideration, and one that won’t be apparent until an establishment bylaw is created and made public by the CRD.

If LCC commissioners don’t end up having any power to effect change, then it hardly matters if they are elected to an LCC with a stipend or appointed to the existing four commissions as volunteers. The “accountability factor” that goes with an elected position will be much reduced. It would be interesting to know why community members in at least two other places in B.C. that used the LCC model — Olalla and Bear Lake — apparently did not want to serve as commissioners there.

It is much too soon to either embrace or dismiss the LCC concept. Everyone will have to look carefully at the establishment bylaw produced by the CRD and try to get from it a realistic sense of how effective a change it would be in practice, and then decide whether it’s worth the effort and cost.

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