Time to rethink the role of the CRD

Another View

What’s the point of having directors in each of the municipalities and unincorporated areas if they have no actual decision making powers?

The Capital Regional District has 22 directors, with directors from municipalities appointed by their respective councils and the representatives from the electoral areas directly elected by their resident voters.

Any vote can be heavily weighted with Victoria having three directors and Saanich having five. Each of the other cities, districts, towns and electoral areas only have one. This voting system is based on population.

When regional districts were formed back in the mid-1960s, it was to share the costs of services, such as fire protection, hospitals and to provide borrowing power. The provincial government had stepped away from governance of unincorporated areas and set up the system of regional districts. There have been changes since then giving the regional districts much broader sweeping powers. They have in essence become a third level of government, created without public input. While the electorate can vote for some directors, the public never had a say in the creation of regional districts. It was foisted on the taxpayers, whether they liked it or not.

While they serve a purpose they are relatively unanswerable to any other legislative body, or the public for that matter. Regional districts have fashioned their own voting structures, again without broader public input. They rule the roost, so to speak, and their powers are in many ways limitless. Does a director from Saanich have the right to vote on issues in the Juan de Fuca? Does a director from Sooke care what happens in North Saanich? Should they?

Can the members dictate what happens in municipalities or electoral areas other than their own? Apparently they can. Is this fair? Probably not.

The CRD adopted a Regional Growth Strategy where a vision was created as to what areas should be densely populated and which areas should remain rural. They didn’t want urban sprawl and rightly so in many cases, but what defines “urban sprawl”? Is it huge arable acreages covered over with big box stores? Is it recreational cabins hidden in the forest? Is it a subdivision of affordable single family homes? The concept of “urban sprawl” is open to interpretation and it is being used as a club by special interest groups to get what they want, even though they are not appointed or elected by anyone except themselves.

The RGS is narrow in focus and out of date with what is actually happening in rural areas. They could not have, at the time it was instigated, predicted the need for economic development and jobs. They did not anticipate the shrinking job base in the resource sector or see that the only foreseeable option was tourism.  The world economy has sent once prosperous companies to the brink of bankruptcy and people are finding vacation opportunities closer to home.

If tourism is to be the economic saviour, in the reaches beyond Greater Victoria, then those communities have to cater to all tourists, not just the ones with backpacks and a hunger to trek, or the ones who go no further than downtown Victoria.

Each community knows their community best and the elected directors were voted in to speak for the people they represent.

The CRD Board should not have the right to hamstring a director by taking away his/her power to govern and they should not make a director a eunuch by giving him no options for economic development.

 

Pirjo Raits is the editor of the Sooke News Mirror.