Recently four former mayors re-entered public life by jointly proposing that all Comox Valley communities should be forced to amalgamate.
Since then several news items and letters to the editor have appeared, some supporting their cause, others taking the opposite view.
Earlier this year a group of Valley residents came together to discuss this issue along with what other alternatives could be developed to satisfy the needs of the various communities.
The group quickly realized that, to make any kind of informed decision, it would be necessary to get the facts rather than rely on opinion and speculation. Unfortunately, those facts are not readily available.
Seeking guidance, the group contacted Minister of Community, Sport and Cultural Development Bill Bennett to find out if there were any provincial resources available and whether there were any protocols that needed to be addressed.
The response was twofold.
Yes, there are resources available — in fact, there is an extensive manual on how to conduct what is called a Governance Review … Salt Spring Island has just gone through this process.
However, the second part of the response was that in order for this process to take place, there would have to be “broadly demonstrated community support.”
Given this response and the information at hand, the Comox Valley Governance Review Group was created.
The goal of the group is to have an independent study initiated to determine if the governance of the Comox Valley is structured in a manner that will satisfy the political, cultural and public services the community needs to meet the challenges that growth brings.
The reason for this is simply the fact that currently there is no clear understanding or factual information to help decide what would work best for the community in terms of whether all areas should come under one governing body or whether governance is best served in some other form.
To begin a dialogue and to see if there is sufficient interest, a website has been established at www.cvgovreview.ca. Those in favour of having a study done can sign the online’ petition. There is also a Facebook page that has been set up to help with dialogue and discussion.
If there is indeed a desire, then the primary objective of the group is to secure funding for a study and have a joint committee … with all areas of the Valley represented … established to oversee the review process as outlined in the Ministry’s Review and Program Guide titled … Managing Changes to Local Government Structure.
The whole issue of how we support and govern ourselves is indeed complex.
As someone who has been involved in the community and has acted as a moderator and facilitator, I believe the only way we as a community can come to terms with what will work best is to take an objective view of what we have now, what we need and what we could be like as a community going into the future.
Editor’s note: Joe Smith is a member of the Comox Valley Governance Review Group.