Director worries regional district board may fracture

The Strathcona Regional District board is considering a new service that some directors are concerned will fracture the board

The Strathcona Regional District board is considering a new service that some directors are concerned will fracture the board.

Directors are looking at establishing a service to separate issues specific to the four electoral areas from the municipalities within the regional district.

The electoral area administration service would include elections, director salaries and expenses, constituency costs and other activities that pertain only to the electoral areas.

Tom Yates, the regional district’s corporate services manager, said the service would include programs that don’t have a service bylaw and are not required to be administered regionally.

“The gas tax fund is a good example of a program that, since it lacks its own service, must by default be operated under the general administration function of the regional district,” Yates said in a report to the board. “As part of the general administration function the entire board must participate in operating the program. The same could be true for wharves, dikes, and other facilities that currently lack their own service.”

That means the entire board, even directors representing the municipalities who are not affected by such items, are voting on them.

Moving those items under a separate electoral area administration service would allow the four electoral area directors – representing areas A, B, C and D – to vote on those topics specific to the electoral areas during electoral areas committee meetings.

But Campbell River Director Charlie Cornfield said he thought the proposal may divide the board.

“It’s almost like we’re moving away from a single board,” Cornfield said. “I guess I have a concern that right now we all participate in remuneration and expenses discussion as a board. So it’s about maintaining the identity of the board. Where is the check and balance that our constituents expect? We do hear from our constituents and we do have them in here making presentations to the board as a whole. So I’m a little concerned that we may be starting to fracture, or crack. Other than that, I think the concept is good, I just have concerns over us becoming too split up.”

Campbell River Director Ron Kerr had the same feeling.

“I think on the surface it looks to me like us becoming a regional district within a regional district and I have some concerns over that,” Kerr said.

But Area C Director Jim Abram, and board chair, said his understanding was that the “implications would be positive to the municipalities.”

Campbell River Director Andy Adams agreed with Abram.

“I think as we’ve found at this table for quite some time, there are some issues passionate and important to the electoral areas that may not be so much to the municipalities,” Adams said. “I think this is a benefit of people’s time, and energy and efficiency…and it benefits the board as a whole.”

Area D Director Brenda Leigh said she agreed with the concept, but didn’t like that all of the electoral areas would be lumped together in paying for certain services that may not pertain to each region.

“What I don’t like about this proposal at this moment is lumping things that have nothing to do with my area, like wharves, where I might have to pay for things I don’t have,” said Leigh who wants to use a weighted voting system.

“I also don’t like the idea that it’s one person, one vote,” Leigh added. “Area D has significantly more population than the other three areas and I would like to protect my financial interests for my constituents.”

Leigh, however, did agree with the rest of the board to go ahead with having staff draft a bylaw and then propose any amendments once it is brought back to the directors.