It has been an interesting couple of weeks dealing with CVRD bylaws brought forward from the board and now at the alternate approval (AAP) stage of the process. This is my first experience as a board member having to work through this process in an effort to supply what the board has agreed upon as valuable services to citizens of the region.
As I listen and deal with the complaints about the process, there is one thing that stands out the most and that is the issue around communication. There are minimum standards for public communication and engagement, set out in the local government act and the community charter. It has been my experience that usually only the minimum requirements are undertaken as a cost saving measure to taxpayers. I have been an elected official for seven years now and I cannot figure out how to best communicate with the tax paying public. Obviously the newspaper is not the absolute method in this new age of communication, but unless there is a dedicated staff person at a cost of $50 to $100,000 a year, it would be impossible to cover all the modes of communication available to each and every one of us in today’s world, with any degree of integrity.
For at least three years now I have witnessed past and present boards turn down the request from staff for a designated communications position. I totally understand the reason people complain about the actions and processes associated with governments. Elected officials sit, listen and ponder mountains of information from all disciplines associated with each and every issue, something the general public expects of us and do not have the time in their busy lives to do themselves. I truly admire my fellow elected officials and staff for going over and above each and every day to make sure they have all the information at hand in order for elected officials to make sound decisions. The one piece we most often fall short on is educating our electors through efficient methods of communication.
Recently through staff attrition, our CAO has been able to hire a manager of Strategic Services, whose job description will focus largely on communications. I look forward to this position taking affect early in the new year so the CVRD board can convey information around regional issues before they affect the pocketbooks of the taxpayers.
In the meantime we need to work together as best as possible to understand the bylaws currently at the AAP stage and decide as individuals whether or not we approve of the proposed services in each bylaw. What concerns me most is that folks may be led astray by the opinions of folks who don’t understand the reasons for the services. It should also be noted that one of the loudest voices in the Lake Cowichan area speaking against the AAP, was an elected official and sat at the CVRD board table while some 20 service bylaws were adopted. At the end of the day, I can only hope that before anyone signs and delivers an AAP form back to the CVRD that they have thought for themselves.
My personal mantra around taxation is, “A fair and equitable distribution of wealth.” We are so very fortunate to live in a country with so much and in a governing culture full of ways to share wealth through all levels of taxation in an effort to enrich the quality of life throughout the country.
Bob K. Day
Town of Lake Cowichan