The road to November’s municipal elections

Municipal election season is upon us — and the next round of local government elections takes place this November and folks are understandably jockeying for position and media coverage as we speak.

Municipal election season is upon us — and the next round of local government elections takes place this November and folks are understandably jockeying for position and media coverage as we speak.

Aside from our disappointment in some few of those now serving in certain municipalities for their personal bully style attacks on their political opponents, by far the majority of local municipal councillors and mayors are hardworking and dedicated to making a positive difference in their community.

They get little other than a lot of grief for doing so. We applaud their dedication and public service including Colwood Mayor David Saunders who recently announced that he will not be seeking a new term.

Other politicians that are in it more for themselves, their political party bosses and or their own personal aggrandizement cannot represent their citizens well.

Strangely enough these are usually the same ones that attack their colleagues personally — they do so because they can’t win arguments on the facts and by persuasion or on the issues.

This November let’s elect the positive folks with strong visions for their communities.

The provincial government continues to download more and more responsibilities and less and less related funding to our municipalities. As a result, local representatives, including school district trustees, more than ever before directly affect the quality of our lives and our families’ lives.

We ought to make sure we pay careful attention to all their actions and policies in the lead up to the elections this fall so that we re-elect or elect the best of them. Voter turnout in municipal elections in B.C. is woefully low and we must all work to reverse this trend.

Paying close attention to municipal issues has drawn us to look more carefully at the Capital Region District.

Did you know that the CRD has an operating expense budget of almost $185 million for 2011? This is an astounding amount. To be clear about $88 million of this from taxes but another $90 million is from user fees.

This huge bureaucracy has over 500 full time equivalent staff positions, many at high salaries. One way or another you pay for all of it.

Not only is the CRD questionably large and an additional level of costs and bureaucracy in addition to our 13 municipalities and two electoral areas in the CRD, but it many say that it may well have structural flaws in its decision making processes. We need a close examination of how we govern ourselves in southern Vancouver Island.

Currently the CRD makes all its major decisions on the basis of population size or budget size of each municipality — in other words it is in effect a “weighted vote.”

This means that Victoria and the Saanich municipalities can, and often do, out vote the West Shore municipalities on many issues. This is very troubling given the fact that the West Shore is growing at an unprecedented rate while Victoria and Saanich are growing very little.

Granted the West Shore municipalities need to do a much better job of speaking with one voice. A recent example of CRD decision making is the support by Victoria and Saanich for the BC Transit $1 billion light rail plan, but no municipality in the West Shore endorsed this overall plan, preferring instead the use of the E&N corridor at a much lower cost.

Those representing the past (slow growth municipalities) are deciding the future for high growth municipalities — a sure recipe for disaster that has to change. Let’s enter a healthy debate about how to do just that.

—Dan Spinner is the CEO for the WestShore Chamber of Commerce.



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