Special to The Record
In March of 2014, the Chamber of Commerce established a Governance Review Task Force. The Task Force has a single and simple goal: have an independent governance review study conducted of the local government of the Comox Valley. The provincial government has funds available for such studies, and when Task Force members asked several provincial ministers about the issue, they indicated that all they need to make the study happen is for all four local governments to ask for it.
So what is this “governance” thing you ask? In its essence, governance is the way in which we are governed. When discussing local government governance, it includes the structure (three municipalities and a regional district), the number of elected officials (22), how decisions are made, and how works and services are funded.
So why does the Chamber of Commerce care so much about local government governance? It’s really simple: businesses pay a large portion of local taxes directly through property taxes and indirectly through salaries that pay for employees’ property taxes. Local businesses also interact with, and can have their business success directly affected by local government. Therefore, it’s in the best interest of Comox Valley businesses to have the best local governance possible.
Sign the petition!
Since forming just over a year ago, the Task Force started a petition and has made presentations to each municipal council. The goal of the petition is to collect signatures from 10 per cent of the Comox Valley electorate (5,000 signatures) to show local governing bodies that the people of the Valley want this study. To date, more than 2,800 signatures have been collected.
As we ask people about the governance review study, 99 per cent are willing to sign, so getting the signatures is just a matter of time. We also used a recent business leader’s survey to our advantage by asking if local businesses supported having a governance review study done — 88 per cent surveyed supported the call for a study.
How will the study be conducted? If efforts on Saltspring Island are any indication, a local committee of citizens and select elected officials would be formed.
Of note, the elected officials do not have voting capacity in the model being used on Saltspring Island. The committee would work with provincial staff to create a terms of reference for the study, and to hire a consultant to conduct the study. The terms of reference for the study would be a key document that would need input from all of the existing local governments so we know the correct questions to ask. The study would be funded by the province, and the report, guided by the committee, would be presented to the province and each of the local governments for action. It is important to note that any recommendations of the study would be non-binding.
As we begin a fresh round of presentations to local councils, the petition is available for signature on the Chamber website or at the Chamber office. Have a say in how your community is governed – better yet, pick up a petition form and help us get even more signatures!
Andrew Gower is the Comox Valley Chamber of