The Strathcona Regional District is working on a new policy to require that all petitions presented to its board include signatures following an incident this spring.
A petition, circulated around Area D in support of replacing playground equipment at Hagel Park, caused some skepticism around the regional district board table after some directors questioned the document’s validity.
Names on the petition were printed, rather than signed, and some directors said it looked like many of the names were printed in a remarkably similar fashion.
That prompted directors to ask regional district staff for a review of the corporation’s procedure policy for receiving petitions and other correspondence.
At the June 22 board meeting, Tom Yates, the regional district’s corporate services manager, said the regional district does not have a policy governing the receipt of petitions but it does have one for correspondence, albeit nearly 20 years old with ambiguous language.
“An older policy (1998) was inherited from the Comox-Strathcona Regional District which addresses the requirement for correspondence to be signed before it may be received by the regional board,” Yates said. “Since petitions may be considered a form of correspondence, albeit one in which there are typically many persons involved, it is possible to interpret the current policy as disallowing receipt of petitions unless they have been signed.”
That’s because the policy reads: “That the policy of the Regional District of Comox-Strathcona be that unsigned correspondence will not be received by the Regional District Board.”
Area D Director Brenda Leigh said it would serve the regional district well to update its policy to include all forms of correspondence.
“This policy would also assist directors in making decisions into public hearings. If somebody signs a document and its authenticity, or if someone just checks ‘I agree with this’ and their name is printed, we don’t know who signed it or what,” Leigh said. “Then we’re in the realm of manufactured consent and that’s really difficult for directors to make decisions on what’s authentic and what isn’t. I think we need to have this policy and the sooner the better.”
Yates said regional district staff will come back with a draft policy to deal with unsigned correspondence and then it will be up to the board to debate and make decisions on.
Campbell River Director Andy Adams wanted to know if other jurisdictions already have such policies in place which the Strathcona Regional District could consider to “see the success or lack of.”
Yates replied that in his experience, most do have policies that govern the receipt of petitions and other correspondence and lay out a set of standards for receipt.
Adams said in that case, “find the ones that work and bring them back.”