Editorial: Will more be merrier?

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Salt Spring’s governance is under the stage lights again as discussion about establishing a local community commission (LCC) gets underway.

Exploring the LCC idea was a campaign promise made by Gary Holman when he ran for CRD director during the 2018 elections. Initially the hope was to have a referendum on the concept completed in time to elect LCC commissioners during this fall’s elections. Holman has said that both the pandemic and delays around trying to resolve another governance issue, that of potentially having the North Salt Spring Waterworks District (NSSWD) become a CRD entity, led to the LCC issue being pushed further ahead than originally planned. At this point that change will not be taking place. (The fact that the NSSWD has been providing maintenance services to CRD-run water services without a legal contract since December of 2019, despite NSSWD attempts since last summer to get new contracts finalized, is just one example of why that change may not be occurring.)

Last Friday’s ASK Salt Spring meeting heard from Holman and others working on a discussion paper about the LCC concept that would see islanders elect a CRD director and four LCC commissioners rather than a sole director as at present. Hopefully that document will illuminate many more details than were revealed on Friday, and public dissection can give shape to possible bylaws that might result and be voted on at a referendum in October.

Brian Webster is a longtime Salt Spring Parks and Recreation Commission member contributing to the discussion paper. As he pointed out during Friday’s session, there is no point simply adding to the plethora of existing commissions and CRD bureaucracy with one more body if true change does not result.

Spreading the responsibility of providing CRD services among more people who are accountable to their electorate would no doubt be a positive thing. It would reduce the quite untenable load for the sole director and should lead to better processes, but if an LCC simply adds costs without resulting in substantially improved governance, it would not be worth doing. But it is early days to be speculating on the impact of an LCC, so we look forward to release of the LCC discussion paper and further public discussions to come.

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