Listening to everyone weigh in on the recent failure of the CRD’s contentious sewage plan has me thinking that municipal elections will be interesting this fall, with a number of issues at play — the possibility of 4-year Council terms (decision pending from the Province to increase the current 3-year term to 4 years), sewage treatment, kitchen waste, the Blue Bridge and, in Oak Bay at least, the urban deer situation. I am sure there are other issues for other communities.
Many of these programs are either delivered by the CRD or provided through CRD partnerships with local governments. It is important, therefore, that voters in this fall’s municipal elections select CRD Directors who bring proven leadership skills to the Board table. Not all voters realize that local politicians also fill CRD Board positions (for which they are remunerated several thousand dollars a year over and above their Council stipend) representing each of their communities. Every Director also appoints an Alternate, normally a Councillor, to act in the Director’s absence. The results of municipal election choices then are reflected at the Board table.
I have always supported the CRD regional governance model, despite its warts. I have sat on a series of CRD committees representing my community and did a three-year stint as the Mayor’s Alternate from 2008 to 2011. But in light of the failed sewage plan, I am now concerned that if we can’t make the CRD decision-making model work well, what’s next?
There are many successful CRD programs, services and initiatives that benefit local communities, such as the Regional Growth Strategy (a framework for regional planning), re-cycling (Blue Box), solid waste management (Hartland), regional park systems, storm water monitoring, water and partnership projects on the environment, housing, heat recovery, transportation and other innovations — the list is long.
Perhaps regional and local governments need to re-examine what sometimes seems to be a “go along to get along” approach to decision-making. The work we do as local governments is much more complex than it was 10 years ago and communities, taxpayers and residents have greater expectations of better service, more efficiency and fiscal accountability. I also believe that they have greater expectations (and they should) for strong leadership skills in their local politicians, leadership skills that can be applied at the CRD Board table. We must be reminded that, in the end, there is only one taxpayer and it’s you and me.