Proposed changes would leave Campbell River directors with less power

Each of the regional district’s municipalities and electoral areas gets one vote for every 1,500 people

The Strathcona Regional District is considering changes that would give Campbell River directors less influence over certain votes, and reduce their numbers on the board of directors.

Sayward Mayor and director John MacDonald has served notice that he will put forward a motion at Thursday’s Strathcona Regional District board meeting to change the voting structure.

MacDonald wants to increase the voting unit, which determines the number of directors and the voting entitlement for all of the areas in the regional district, to create better proportion on the board.

Currently, the regional district operates under a voting unit set at 1,500 which means that each of the regional district’s municipalities and electoral areas gets one vote for every 1,500 people that live within its boundaries.

Russ Hotsenpiller, the regional district’s chief administrative officer, said, in addition, it affects the number of directors that each area is allowed to have on the board.

“It also means that each area is entitled to appoint a director for every 7,500 of population, based on the requirement that no director may have more than five votes,” Hotsenpiller said.

MacDonald’s motion, which will go before the board tomorrow, is to increase the voting unit to 2,500 which means that the number of Campbell River directors who sit on the board would decrease from five to three and those three directors would have 13 votes. Currently, the five Campbell River directors hold 22 votes. It would also reduce the Area D electoral director’s vote to two points from three. The Area C director would retain two votes while all the other electoral area and municipal directors would continue to hold just one vote.

This system of weighted votes – where some votes carry more weight than others – is only used when the board votes on certain matters, typically on motions related to finances.

Tom Yates, corporate services manager for the regional district, said the system recognizes that not all areas subscribe to every service.

“A system of voting has been devised whereby those areas that participate in – and contribute financially to – a service have a greater say in the decisions related to that service than do non-participants,” Yates said. “This principle acknowledges the fact that an area’s financial contribution level to the region is an important consideration for establishing equity but not the only consideration.”

Campbell River holds approximately 67 per cent of the weighted vote on financial matters, which is a greater percentage than any other municipality on any other regional district board in B.C.

Brenda Leigh, director for Area D, said things will never change unless the province, which established the 1,500 voting unit when the Strathcona Regional District was formed, takes control.

“If we think things are unfair on this board with how things are running, then we need to ask the province to come in and examine it,” Leigh said at the June 10 board meeting. “They’re the ones that created the problem in the first place, they eliminated directors. They’re the ones who did this to us, they need to come in and clean up their mess. We can’t fix it while we have this imbalance on our board.”

Yates said it’s unknown why, when the Comox Strathcona Regional District became two entities, that the province set the voting unit at 1,500 for both the Comox Valley Regional District and the Strathcona Regional District.

Prior to that, the Comox Strathcona Regional District operated under a 2,500 voting unit. The province also eliminated an electoral area at the time of the Strathcona Regional District’s creation.