Being an elected official is hard and sometime frustrating work — especially at the municipal level. And our thanks goes out to all of them.
We all go to the polls this fall. Well, at least some of us do. Not many people actually exercise their democratic rights to elect, or re-elect municipal candidates across B.C.
Sadly municipal voting participation rates are only about 25 per cent and dropping. Why is that? Do we totally trust all our politicians? Probably not. Do we even care who represents us at the municipal level? Do we even know who does represent us? Do we know what position they take on key issues? Are we aware of key issues?
From a Chamber of Commerce point of view, while we don’t support or endorse any individual politicians or political parties, we do have strong feelings about the kind of elected leaders we need, particularly at the municipal level.
We have views on the key issues affecting communities on the West Shore, and we are committed to helping maintain and create a healthy communities on the West Shore.
This can only be done if we have leaders who have a positive vision for their municipality, who focus not on personal and character attacks but rather on positively solving the issues at hand and who are well versed in those issues facing their communities.
The best leaders in our opinion know these issues, know them well and can articulate their positions clearly and without equivocation.
That way we can choose those with whom we align on issues, or not, rather than have to sift through mumbo-jumbo or ambivalent commentary.
We cannot list the many individual local issues in this space but we can list our view of some the common overriding ones which are primarily about regional infrastructure.
Transportation: West Shore municipalities must not allow themselves to be played off against one another on route and cost preferences for E&N rail corridor versus light rapid transit (LRT) plans, or Victoria and Saanich will control the transit agenda. This is probably the number one issue facing the West Shore.
Education/schools: We urgently need two new high schools due to the continued massive K to 12 growth over next decade.
Municipal support has been strong and unified and must remain so with huge economic benefits, or losses if not obtained.
Municipal costs/taxation: Controlling costs and tax increase to residents and businesses, but in the context of honest evaluation of cuts required or new revenue sources expected if tax increases are held low.
Promises of extraordinarily low rates must be backed up by details on program cuts and revenue plans otherwise they can be seen as false. Some West Shore municipalities have been brilliant at managing their costs and tax rates. Others can and should learn from them.
Waste systems both solid and water: The Capital Regional District continues to march toward its plans for massive waste water plant at McCauley Point, estimated to cost nearly $1 billion.
Septic systems in some communities need complete overhauls. The West Shore has an opportunity for innovative waste water and solid waste treatment options that are renewable and cost effective.
Regional governance: Many would agree that the current CRD model does not serve the West Shore well.
With little regional transportation representation as but one example and poor recognition of the West Shore’s extraordinary growth, the question becomes how can West Shore municipalities gain more influence at the CRD table?
Those that represent us now work hard do a good job, but is the entire model is structurally flawed. Who is the CRD and its 500 staff and $200 million budget overall, really responsible to?
The issues are many and complex — formulate your own views on these and others and research them well.
Pick strong leaders with strong positive values, experience, vision and plans. But above all don’t ignore the entire municipal election issue as if it doesn’t affect you and your family — it really does, a lot.
—Dan Spinner is the CEO of the WestShore Chamber of Commerce.