Rural directors at the Strathcona Regional District (SRD) table are tired of feeling like they’re being steamrolled by municipalities, according to one director.
The issue began at the Feb. 8 Electoral Area Services Committee meeting, where a motion was made to remove all four electoral areas from the proposed Regional Fire Service. In Sept. 2021, the board moved forward with a feasibility study on a service that would set up a regional approach to firefighting. At the time, the rural directors all voted against the feasibility study and the municipal directors voted for it.
Now, the four electoral areas want out of that service. They say they want to stop being forced into services they do not agree to.
“The Electoral Areas have come to the unanimous conclusion that we are being unfairly treated by the board,” said Electoral Area A director Gerald Whalley. “I move that the board convene an open mediated service review as soon as possible.”
Services are established by the board to provide for constituents. They can range from provincial government-mandated services like General Government Services down to the Home Away from Home service, the Regional Library service, house numbering, parks and recreation and unsightly premise regulation. Services can apply to all municipalities, treaty First Nations and electoral areas, or to any combination of them. Those communities that take part in services also pay for them through property tax requisition. According to the SRD website, there are 70 regional and local services provided by the SRD across 30 different areas.
The review Whalley advocated for would look at all of them, which would be unprecedented in the province.
“That doesn’t mean that electoral areas don’t like regional services,” he said. “Electoral areas are very different. Their constituents are very different than municipalities. A lot of our people move out of municipalities because they’re looking for a little more freedom (and to) get away from some of the government bylaws.
“We find (with) the majority of activities, (there) currently seems to be a little bit of disconnect — maybe disregard — for the wishes and concerns of the electoral area residents,” he said.
The fire service is only the latest issue. According to the electoral areas, there are many reasons to not have such a service. Whalley’s reasoning is that Electoral Area A does not have a fire department, so paying into the service would not make sense.
“You cannot really kidnap someone and force them to be your partner and then expect there to be any kind of harmonious relationship,” he said. “In fact you’re going to destroy any previous cooperation you ever had with that person.”
Whalley’s two motions were deferred to later meetings.