A Sooke councillor is calling for changes to the Capital Regional District’s governance model.
“It’s time to look at all 13 municipalities and their functionality,” said Coun. Kevin Pearson.
“Too often the CRD is putting the cart before the horse. There’s a disconnect between what [politicians] believe is good governance and what’s hitting the street.”
Pearson said the latest examples are the CRD board decision to limit the Juan de Fuca Electoral Area’s comment on the regional growth strategy, and an advisory committee recommending a junket to Europe to tour sewage and processing plants. The decision was greeted with uproar from taxpayers.
It raises questions surrounding exactly who is in charge, who makes decisions and how, and who has “bottom-line” responsibility, Pearson said.
He’s also raising alarm bells surrounding what he calls a lack of leadership.
“Why are we not partnering with our local universities and developing the expertise here?” asked Pearson, adding the University of Victoria was never approached about the sewage project or other significant projects.
“I believe in local expertise. Leadership to me is looking at the big picture.”
And Pearson said when it comes to major projects the CRD needs to “draw a line in the sand” to get things accomplished.
Too often, projects are delayed – or don’t get off the drawing board – at the CRD board because there are 13 different opinions, with no one willing to work together for the greater benefit of the region.
“We ask everybody for an opinion. Can you imagine asking 13 people for an opinion? You know in a democratic society it sounds wonderful, but it never gets anywhere,” Pearson said.
He cites the $800-million sewage project that has been on the books for years with millions of dollars spent before a shovel was put in the ground – all because many CRD board reps couldn’t agree on the scope of the development.
“It’s a great thing for municipalities to have their identity, but when you have an overriding government that is controlling certain services, it appears to fall apart,” Pearson said.
So what’s the solution? Pearson suggests that CRD committees be more aligned with the issue. If Sooke and Highlands are not part of the sewage project, why are they part of the committee, he asked.
“We need to revamp the overall model.”
It’s a sentiment shared by the chair of the Grumpy Taxpayers of Greater Victoria, a non-profit, non-partisan citizens’ advocacy group dedicated to more accountable municipal government.
Governance is the “crux of the problem” at the CRD, said Stan Bartlett.
“It’s been said, the CRD is the local government that Greater Victoria loves to hate, and it’s probably a fairly accurate statement, he said, adding the the CRD is a 24-person unelected board with very little public accountability.
“I think the board size of 24 is ridiculous. It does not make for quality decisions.”
Sooke is at a turning point and needs better leadership, says Coun. Kevin Pearson.
He said the municipality is finishing off many legacy projects started by other councils, such as the roundabout, town centre renewal and the new library, but other important issues need to be dealt with soon.
“It’s time for us now as a local municipality to start planning for the future. We’re at that 13,000-plus in population, and there are many cost implications when we hit the 15,000 mark,” Pearson said.
Pearson expects the run for council next fall, but wouldn’t commit to running for mayor. “I’m not ruling it out,” he said.