Salt Spring Island
Votes on Incorporation
1080 YES / 2537 NO!
In what can only be called a heart warming demonstration of good civic sense and rational thinking, Salt Spring Islanders chose not to become yet another downloading channel for Provincial responsibilities. Even after the Province provided $100,000 of taxpayer's money to do the study, they and the restructuring committee were unable to inspire a majority of islanders to see the merits of such a 'conditional' template for local control. Conditional; on whatever the outcome of the developing Community Charter will be and conditional; on whatever the Province might decide to download to the community at any future date.
Salt Spring Nightmare Averted=Light
In what seemed to be an eleventh hour effort by islanders to try and get some real answers the restructuring committee was unable to paint a clear enough picture of what a municipality might mean to our status, the fate of the Islands Trust, development or what the actual costs would be if the island incorporated.
Roads and their maintenance figured prominently as being a huge unknown in the overall scheme of things. Quite apart from the sense that the restructure committee had lost their objectivity with all members coming out in favour... it all seemed a little too tight and sown up. The local Driftwood newspaper had been unabashedly promoting the yes vote for months and the meetings never drew a significant crowd of more than two or three hundred people interested in the issue. One does wonder how such a small group could have been in a position to put us through this but, the referendum was in fact a result of a preliminary vote by a relatively small group who wanted to test the waters.
All in all it is always good for a community to assess their options and in this case it is particularly good to see that people indeed want change and improvement in their local governance but they are certainly not prepared to throw the baby out with the bath water. The Islands Trust has been granted a reprieve, we hope that they take this time to re-assess where they can improve the efficiency and effectiveness of their operations and come up with a reasonable way to inspire more community-minded solutions.
The No side needed this landslide victory to put this issue to rest for a good long time. Congratulations Salt Spring... See Full Voting Results
SaltSpring Shows PromiseWhere do we go from here?
Salt Springers are a uniquely dynamic group of intellectual activists who seem to rise to every occasion to deal with their own solutions. While a plain vanilla municipal incorporation did not fit their idea of local governance, they know they need to improve on what they have.
The Islands Trust almost single handedly forced the island down the incorporation road whether through their over-bearing bureaucracy or their high maintenance costs, they angered enough people to have the island consider a serious alternative.
Few people realise what we would have sacrificed in the name of reducing the influence of the Islands Trust. Had we indeed fallen for the Provincial alternative of becoming another municipality, the added burden of having to support a highway infrastructure as well as local policing would have left few pennies over for community minded projects and dreams. The Trust would have likely lost some of its power but we would have also lost an environmental hub that islanders still feel can form a much more viable basis for good modest local governance. If we have learned anything we have learned that without input, our local governance has no direction, we are the ones who fail our systems if we don't participate.
Health Update: Incorporitis
Early reports that people with incorporitis needed institutional- ization and de-programming may have been premature. This relatively rare disease that was so difficult to diagnose, appears to have a relatively short half-life, perhaps even only lasting a few hours and not years as scientist first suspected. Although it stems from the same Provincial source, it only infects a population periodically and can be cured easily by clearing channels holistically and treating the entire body and mind with a generous dose of sunshine and paradise. It was once thought that de-municipalization was the only sure-fire cure but as it turns out preventative awareness of all the symptoms is by and large the most effective way to avoid it. As mentioned in an earlier health warning, the most extreme manifestation of incorporitis was found in the case where an individual actually built his own home in the shape of a town hall, but there have been a number of breakthroughs lately that may even help these advanced cases. Stay tuned.
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Free for the Summer
Salt Spring to Celebrate
With renewed optimism and faith in their existing local governance, the summer kicks off with a solid sense that we will do better and figure out ways to solve our problems within more modest means.
It comes as no surprise that all this talk about installing formal government on Salt Spring had people stressed out about exactly what that would mean. For many it was a traumatic feeling of helplessness in the face of what was being presented as a natural evolutionary principle for all communities. We were told that it was time to grow up and and that it was our responsibility to incorporate or face an extremely uncertain future.
Contrary to this misleading popular misconception, well established patterns of our current community operation are far more certain than all the uncertainties of Incorporation and building a new municpality. There was no compelling reason to do it, especially with the Community Charter contract details still unwritten. In a way it was actually insulting to expect us to sign on when so much was undefined. Anybody who has ever signed a contract must have known in their heart of hearts that the timing was premature and that there really wasn't any way for a yes vote to succeed.
As things stand, we can be sure that the Province won't stop trying to offload responsibilities anyway, but not being a municipality we can expect that policing and roads will continue to be a Provincial responsibility that over 250,000 visitors to Salt Spring will continue to contribute to through all of our taxes. Where we have a will there will be a way, we will have a swimming pool, ice rink or whatever we wish just as we have an Artspring, protected forests and park land and heronries.
Salt Springers have much to be proud of, having defeated this initiative when all along it was being presented as a foregone conclusion that we were going to become a municipality. It is interesting to note that our local Driftwood newspaper has nowhere near the clout or connection with the community pulse as they so often presume. Their early endorsement was as flawed as the study was lacking in certainties. Hopefully other islands will learn from us as we did from Bowen Island. ( We thank the Mayor of Bowen, Lisa Barrett and Dr. Kathy Dunster for adding so much real experiential commentary to our debate. )