- Grants-in-Aid Policy in the Works
Every year, Oak Bay Council, like many other local governments across the region, designates funding (in Oak Bay’s case it’s less than $60,000. annually) for grants-in-aid, awarded to non-profit agencies and groups, most of whom provide an important social program, community service or event that benefits our community and, sometimes, the region as a whole. Grants-in-aid are an opportunity for local governments to enhance such programs and services and, in some cases, to sustain them.
As you are aware, the grant funding climate at senior levels of government has changed, especially since 2008; governments have reduced, limited or discontinued funding altogether. That means that Grants-in-Aid from local governments become a more important funding source. But because they are derived from your taxes, I support policy that levels the playing field for recipients and brings greater rigour to the process through the use of consistent application criteria that helps to strengthen public accountability.
Which is why our Municipal Treasurer presented a strong report, requested by Council last year, recommending a Grants-in-Aid policy for Oak Bay. The report posed some tough questions for Council to consider when deciding how grant funds should be dispersed, to whom and on what basis.
While I voted to approve the report in principle, I believe that the report’s questions and recommendations require further deliberation and discussion. Council agreed that the Mayor will appoint a committee of three Council members after estimates this spring, to further discuss the report with the Treasurer and work with municipal staff to develop policy intended to guide administration of grant funding next year.
- Clive Proposal Still Evolving
The proposal to re-develop the Clive building appears to remain a work in progress. The developer presented a recent traffic management study on parking after neighbours raised concerns. But the need for qualified planning expertise continues to dominate discussion, at the neighbourhood level and at the Council table. Neighbourhood residents asked Mayor and Council to hire a qualified planner to assist negotiations with the developer. You will recall that the Clive Consensus is a neighbourhood-based, grass roots consultation model created by Clive residents as a process to work with the developer to address outstanding concerns about the development’s impacts.
I commended neighbours and the developer for their innovative approach and commitment to reaching a consensus. Regrettably, they have been unable to resolve all the issues, which they argue are now complex planning issues that require planning expertise.
Again, the need for a qualified planner was expressed by neighbours, the developer and some Council members (including me). But because the proposal is still undergoing changes and a final application must be submitted, the Mayor suggested deferral to our next Council meeting on March 11th. Another neighbourhood meeting with the developer was also planned for later this week.
I reluctantly supported deferral, without making a decision about planning expertise. But neighbours and developer made it very clear that, they believe Oak Bay risks losing the proposal and the goodwill and trust of Clive neighbours if no planner is hired. I think that would be unfortunate.