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Letter - Trust not ‘unique’
The Driftwood has chosen to explore the issue of incorporation over the next several issues. It is a topic that deserves substantive examination, and the paper is to be commended for tackling it.
As with the RAR bylaw, however, the devil is in the details. With that in mind, I want to address some items contained in the first (Aug. 17) installment.
Midway into the article Gail Sjuberg writes, “Besides likely having seven locally elected officials on a municipal council, rather than only two Islands Trust trustees and an electoral area director to the Capital Regional District . . . .” In reality there are three trustees: two locally elected and one from a different island (in this case Gabriola) who serves as the chairperson. We don’t elect the third trustee. We have no say in the decision. Not only that, but when David Essig from Thetis Island was our chair there were less than 400 people that made that decision. (Thetis is listed as having only 372 residents; half of that would be 186 so in reality it could have been decided by as few as 187 people living or owning property on Thetis Island.)
This is significant since, in Essig’s case, he voted down all the work the island did regarding the marina and Ganges Harbour when our two locally elected trustees disagreed.
Later the article quotes former trustee David Borrowman saying that his opposition to incorporation is based on “[preserving] the unique character of the island with its unique form of government, and the likely costs of incorporation.” In fact, this form of government is not unique. The U.S. Senate is set up the same way. It was set up to counter the populist House of Representatives. However, due to its lack of direct representation it is not allowed to introduce money bills (i.e., it can’t introduce tax legislation). The framers of the U.S. Constitution set up the senate as an oversight or moderating influence versus the populace role of the House of Representatives.
That is exactly the model the Province of B.C. originally used in establishing the Islands Trust. Unfortunately, the province imported only half the system and neglected the counterbalance. Initially the Trust was an arm of the province that was funded by the province. Three of the five trustees were appointed by the province. There was never any attempt at balance. The lack of democracy finally persuaded the province to amend the Islands Trust Act, creating LTCs consisting of three trustees, one of which was to be determined by Trust Council. Like the U.S. Senate, it was set up primarily for oversight, but shortly thereafter the province changed that to include land-use planning. This change from oversight to control was accompanied by giving power to the Trust Council to tax. Now we have a nearly $7-million monster which isn’t even located in the area it governs. The head office of the Islands Trust (just as it was when set up as an arm of the province), and a majority of its 48 employees, is located in Victoria. The issue of democracy and balance has never been dealt with.