The Strathcona Regional District board has released their strategic plan, after a year-long process of debate and discussion at the board table.
The plan includes four areas by which all decisions made by the board will follow. The areas are community well-being, service delivery, environment and relationships. This four-item strategic plan is a step away from how planning has happened in previous years, where a larger and more comprehensive document was used for these processes. Board chair Michele Babchuk said that the four items were chosen because they were arrived at by consensus with all 13 members of the board.
“In the past we had a lot of strategic priorities that were almost more like a workplan as opposed to a high level governance piece,” Babchuk explained. “What we’ve decided as a board was to focus on four distinct areas, which the work plan will come out of. All of the stuff that’s presented to the board should actually fall under one of those.”
She explained that the strategic priorities will give district staff some direction when bringing new business to the board for approval. Any new items of business must fall under at least one of the priorities to ensure the district continues to move forward on its strategies. Where in previous years, the strategic plans read more like a list of jobs for the district to do, this will give a more overarching and broad approach to the board’s work moving forward. Those work plans will still exist, but will be more at the staff level rather than the board level.
Relative to other regional districts in the province, the SRD is fairly new. In 2008 it was created after the Comox-Strathcona regional district was split. Though it has been operational for 12 years, Babchuk said that it was starting to see some of its initiatives come into focus. As more concrete projects are starting to come up, Babchuk explained that working on relationships within and outside of the district is one of the major priorities for the future.
“The board has been through a bit of a tumultuous time over the last couple of years,” she said. “We put that as a priority so we can look at external relationships with other local governments and non profits, as well as relationships between directors and between different communities. It’s all encompassing.”
Those relationships include some with other local governments and communities. The district is involved in several projects with multiple jurisdictions, including the Comox Strathcona Solid Waste Management program and the Comox Strathcona Hospital District.
“As we expand those regional pieces and we’re not working in silos and in our individual communities, I believe that creates a lot of value for this board,” she said. “There’s an economy of scale and an efficiency to some issues that expand across an imaginary border. It makes sense to be able to look at those issues that don’t have that boundary associated with them in a larger and grander scale. We have the ability to do that.”
While the plan is overarching for the district, it does allow different communities to pursue different projects based on their own priorities. Babchuk gave the example of Cortes Island’s focus on environmental issues, and that having the environment as a priority at the board level allowed the district to take advantage of various provincial initiatives and give them the opportunities they need.
“It allows us to take a look at what their initiatives over there are, and move forward to make sure they get what they need, but Gold River may be focused on Telecoms,” she said. “It allows us to say that yes, the environment is an issue, and allows us to take advantage of the stuff that comes down the pipe.”
Typically, strategic plans are in place for the electoral term. The district’s plan does come mid-stream, as the directors were elected two years ago, however, Babchuk said that the goal of this plan is to get “back to what we are supposed to be doing in our mandate at the regional district around service delivery for all of our communities.”
The strategic priorities document is available on the SRD website.