Campbell River is part and parcel of the greater north-central portion of Vancouver Island and the associated mainland. It may very well be the heart of this area that I call the “Forest Village.” Whether we want to admit it or not, this village is nature-based and our very future depends upon how well we realize and govern our activities within this truth.
To me, planning and development in Campbell River and the regional district has had a clear top-down character, with public authorities responding to and managing city and regional challenges through an institutional framework organised along the lines of the services that public authorities provide. Until recently, these “silos” – established and based on different levels of government – were relatively effective in delivering public management. Yet, the effectiveness of dealing with cross-sectoral issues that are emerging in our increasing complex community associated with such issues as planning and administering growth in a time of climate change and the provision of reasonably-priced healthy housing in an era of public health crises and pandemics has been limited.
Currently, our civic leaders may be re-examining the effectiveness of government structures and the ‘rules of the game’ in order to continue to steer Campbell River toward a sustainable and resilient future. I realized during my tenure with the city’s forestry taskforce how important developing the proper structure with its associated rules are in achieving the goals and objectives of an exercise or, in the case of this forestry exercise, in not achieving them. I encourage our civic leaders to take an open and inclusive approach that will simultaneously provide environmental, social and economic benefits while building resilience within the village. I implore them to integrate from a range of modern concepts such as ecological engineering, ecosystem services, green blue infrastructure and ecosystem-based adaptation to create a tool for a diverse group of local residents to advise in addressing today’s numerous societal and sustainability challenges.
I have been serving on commissions and committees for the community of Campbell River since the term of Mayor Jakeway. Of course, before that, I worked both as the regional model forest coordinator for BC and the Yukon where many of these concepts were used in experiments. Then I served as a research economist in Trade, Economics and Industry for the Canadian Forest Service.
Now at a time when the public trust in government seems to be decaying and it seems to be turning away from representative democracy toward a more participatory approach, our city centres are experiencing a requirement to transform from “Government” to “Governance” and an accompanying move to shift the role of local administration from top-down regulators toward providers in a certain ‘governance’ context in which to organize activities. As residents, let’s help our leaders provide the socio-environmental context in which we all benefit.
William L. Wagner,
PhD, Civic Forester