Time to act on governance

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By PETER MEYER

I was disappointed to read Chris Dixon’s Sept. 14 In Depth piece on the proposed Salt Spring Island Local Community Commission (LCC) as it inaccurately describes the LCC and fails to recognize the extensive authority it will have.

The process of developing an LCC proposal was not rushed. In addition to discussion over many years, the past five years has included in-depth analysis and review of governance options, including detailed reports from two community groups in 2018, an even more detailed 2022 discussion paper written for our electoral area director, numerous media reports, public meetings, and opportunities for discussion and comment.

Mr. Dixon suggests that we don’t yet know what powers the LCC will have, but that simply is not true. The CRD Board has already passed the bylaws defining these powers, stating clearly that, for 11 of our current local CRD services, the LCC will have what is called Administrative Authority. That means that it will have all the powers of the CRD Board except for final sign-off on bylaws. This is not conditional, not uncertain, and not up for discussion sometime in the future. It’s right there in black and white. 

And in case you are unclear as to what Administrative Authority actually means, all you need to do is look at the five CRD commissions that already have such powers. There is no uncertainty about it; these powers are real.

Mr. Dixon glosses over the distinction between appointed and elected commissioners, yet this is a fundamental issue. Right now, all Salt Spring commissioners are appointed, not elected and — most importantly — all these existing commissioners can do is provide advice, which our electoral area director can choose to ignore. An LCC would consist of elected members of our community with the mandate — and the power — to make decisions that the director (and the CRD Board) cannot ignore or overrule.

It is particularly disappointing that Mr. Dixon says the contributions of volunteer commissioners are somehow diminished through the creation of an LCC. I don’t know of any other communities with elected representatives that don’t value and utilize the advice of community members, expert or otherwise, and there is no reason to believe Salt Spring would be any different. If we establish a Salt Spring LCC, we will be replacing our current system (which is essentially an elected dictatorship) with a more democratic, more representative and more effective council empowered to make decisions in open meetings right here on Salt Spring.

Mr. Dixon wants to start over again with a new process of figuring out how to fix our local government system, ignoring the fact that all community members, commissioners and others have been welcomed to participate in governance discussions that began shortly after the 2017 incorporation referendum. Many of them did take part, and the committee that reviewed the proposal and discussed the draft bylaws with CRD staff included the chairs or nominees of all four of our current unelected island-wide CRD commissions, as well as others who have been commissioners in the past.

Mr. Dixon wants to keep on talking, forfeiting an opportunity to change a system that is not working. I want to act now to improve governance on Salt Spring. That’s why I will be voting YES to a Salt Spring LCC and encourage others to do the same.

The writer is a commissioner on the CRD solid waste and transportation commissions.

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