The Art of Possibility

“Standard and social business practices are built on certain assumptions — shared understandings that have evolved from older beliefs and conditions.  And while circumstances may have changed since the start of these practices, their continued use tends to reconfirm the old beliefs.  For this reason, our daily practices feel right and true to us, regardless of whether they have evolved to keep up with the pace of change.  In just such a way, a business culture arises and perpetuates itself, perhaps long after its usefulness has passed.”  (The Art of Possibility by Rosamund Stone Zander and Benjamin Zander)

For the majority of us who have served in local government, we come to the work full of idealism, a belief in what is possible about ourselves and our work together, and about how best we can serve and represent our communities.   But launching the possible takes the ability to creatively shift the culture, not through “cogently arguing for something new,” but rather through “active ongoing practices” that change the experience and ultimately the reality of the environment.


Making a difference is only possible if we “initiate a new approach to current conditions.”  As the Capital Regional District (CRD) has just announced its Board and Committee appointments for 2015, we see new thinkers, new skills, attitudes and approaches coming to the table, all with fresh ideas and perspectives about “what’s possible” for their communities and our region.  This can be an exciting and promising time for local and regional governments when there there is indeed the ability “to initiate a new approach” to existing conditions at the CRD.  It will take practices to make transformational change in how CRD business is conducted and programs are implemented.  I believe that it will be possible to “turn the freighter” if all hands are on deck and working well together.

Core Area Liquid Waste Management Committee

Arguably one of the most controversial and divisive issues we have seen in many years at the CRD, the pursuit of a regional sewage treatment solution includes some new faces at the Committee table.  It will take courageous leadership, checking egos at the door and putting politics aside, to ensure that new and innovative treatment options are fully explored.  These are the great challenges ahead for this Committee but if the work is driven by and accountable to our communities, then a successful outcome is possible.

Two new complementary groups bring “promise and new possibilities” to working together to find an alternative solution that meets provincial and federal timelines and fulfills grant funding requirements.  The Westside group of communities is already moving forward with public consultation and the Eastside group (Victoria, Saanich and Oak Bay), are in the early stages of organizing themselves and have just received CRD approval to move ahead.  These community partnerships are positive.

Here is the line-up of the Committee members:

Nils Jensen, Chair and Mayor of Oak Bay

Susan Brice, Vice-Chair and Saanich Councillor

Marianne Alto, Victoria Councillor

Richard Atwell, Mayor of Saanich

Denise Blackwell, Langford Councillor

Judy Brownoff, Saanich Councillor

Vic Derman, Saanich Councillor

Barbara Desjardins, Mayor of Esquimalt

Carol Hamilton, Mayor of Colwood

Lisa Helps, Mayor of Victoria

Ben Isitt, Victoria Councillor

Colin Plant, Saanich Councillor

David Screech, Mayor of View Royal

Lanny Seaton, Langford Councillor

Geoff Young, Victoria Councillor

The majority of members is not new to the committee or to the issue.  But with new Mayors Atwell and Helps joining Mayors Desjardins and Hamilton, the latter two working hard last term to present a new and different approach to finding new and different solutions to waste management, there is real hope and possibility for meaningful change to the past reality and conversation.

Admittedly, departing from the plan of a large centralized treatment plant located at McLoughlin Point in Esquimalt, threw a wrench into the CRD’s Seaterra Plan and created some political tension that, in part, played out at the local level during 2014 municipal elections, particularly in the urban core.  With the election of new crop of community leaders, however, the Committee will see new possibilities through innovative thinking about waste water treatment.  I look for members to embrace a “shared” leadership model that supports and encourages the group to take bold steps forward on new technologies and sub-regional models that involve the public, harness energy and are cost-effective for taxpayers.

  • Other CRD Standing Committees

New voices join returning members at such Committees as Environmental Services, Finance, Governance, Planning, Transportation and Protective Services and Regional Parks.

Most notable are:

Mayor Alice Finall of North Saanich as Chair of Planning, Transportation and Protective Services.  I have worked with Mayor Finall on North Saanich Council and she is a strong advocate for regional planning that protects rural and agricultural lands, specifically within the context of the Regional Growth Strategy.  Mayor Finall brings a wealth of CRD, community and leadership experience and will be an excellent Director and Chair.

Mayor Maja Tait of Sooke as Vice Chair of Environmental Services brings a new and enthusiastic voice to environmental protection.  As a former Sooke Councillor, Mayor Tait has leadership experience, is articulate and has a clear sense of direction that will strengthen the work and purpose of this committee.

Mayor Ryan Windsor of Central Saanich as Vice Chair of Governance will bring a new perspective to governance, as he does to his community.  As a private sector business person, he will have fresh ideas about best practices and efficiencies when it comes to the processes of good government.

Mayor Lisa Helps of the City of Victoria as Vice Chair of Planning, Transportation and Protective Services has already proven herself a worthy leader on issues of planning, transportation and community and public safety.  As a former Victoria Councillor, Mayor Helps knows her way around urban core community issues that involve these three important areas and is not afraid to explore new approaches and ideas on behalf of Victoria and the region.

Other new Mayors Steve Price of Sidney, Ken Williams of the Highlands and David Screech of View Royal, also bring new skills and experience to the CRD that will only enhance the work and facilitate new relationships and partnerships that benefit all regional initiatives.

Appointments to Select Committees reflect similar changes to membership that will open up new possibilities and also enhance the work of the CRD.  These Committees are:


Westside Wastewater Treatment and Resource Recovery

Eastside Wastewater Treatment and Resource Recovery

Special Task Force on First Nations Engagement

  • Other Committees


Capital Region Emergency Services Telecommunications (CREST)

Capital Region Housing Corporation Board

Emergency Management Committee

Ferry Advisory Committee

Greater Victoria Coalition to End Homelessness

Greater Victoria Harbour Authority Board

Greater Victoria Labour Relations Association (GVLRA)

Gulf Islands National Park Reserve Advisory Board

Island Corridor Foundation

Municipal Finance Authority

Regional Housing Trust Fund Commission

Royal and McPherson Theatre Society

Traffic Safety Commission

Vancouver Island Regional Library Board (VIRL)

Juan de Fuca Water Distribution Commission

Regional Water Supply Commission

For a detailed list of members, please visit the CRD website and search “committees.”

The CRD provides many valuable services and programs that support our communities.  While the sewage issue has been a distraction that caused some loss in public confidence during the past three years, a new term, new Directors and new members at the various tables promise a period of reconciliation and new approaches that will restore the public’s trust in regional government.  I look forward to learning how the Board and committees define the work, make progress and achieve success on behalf of our region.

Remember that most meetings are open to the public and with the exception of in-camera sessions, CRD Board meetings are webcast and streamed live via the CRD website.