More Political Din

October by

In our neck of the woods and pretty much everywhere these days business people who value democracy don’t advertise in publications that won’t suck up to those of their colleagues who do not. The cost for them in potential lost business is too high.

I know this having run a small publication in which good friends who were also successful business people regretfully told me so. Prior to that I wrote for another which eventually shut down for the same reason.

In Sechelt a little newspaper called ‘The Local’ used to provide a decent forum for discussion but now has a publisher inclined to tinkle the editorial ivories for local political songbirds.

We are thus left with the blandly named ‘Reporter’ which, give due credit, fulfills the mandate of its name quite well but is likewise constrained in its own editorial commentary on what in reality is a seething local politic scene while limiting Letters to the Editor to trivializing 250 word soundbites.

Meanwhile our Regional Government, comprising five ‘rural’ electoral areas, the Sechelt Indian Band and the two Municipalities of Gibsons and Sechelt has piddled away nine years on trivialities, contributing only in this ephemeral way to evermore inadequate, already marginal reserves of water.

– This is puzzling. It is known that these sections of newspapers are the best read….and they don’ have to pay the writers. –

The two municipalities on the Regional District Board, the main drivers of growth, such as it is around here, continue to parrot the vainglorious squawking of developers. Sechelt Council is now going gaga over proposed redevelopment of its golf course, a water-sucking waste of space if there ever was one, (and trumpeting the potential for another) while golf-courses are losing currency throughout North America. There is talk of using purified waste-water on fairways…but where are cost projections for the separate pipeline through which to pump all that water uphill ongoing? And who will pay?

Where is the planning, where are the cost projections for the new reservoir on Chapman Creek that ongoing property development will inevitably require? Where is the discussion of who will pay the inevitable high bill? Will it be the existing population….who are getting by, barely, on the existing reserves or the citizens, newly arrived and yet to come, who will generate the need for it?

These are questions that responsible governance seeks to answer before approving development and spending taxpayer dollars in support of it. In the ongoing absence of such a search Sunshine Coasters can fairly believe that they have been governed irresponsibly for some time.

Are the developers funding reserves for the expenditures their ambitions will generate if realized? Well of course not. It is far cheaper (in every sense of the word) for them to fund candidates for council who wouldn’t think of hitting them up. Sechelt, the hub of population here on the Sunshine Coast, home to our newly expanded yet still inadequate hospital has had for three years a council without a clue what a council’s job is, or what public process and accountability are.

Meanwhile under the regional umbrella, they are presumably content to only pray for the rain necessary for the oh-so-politically correct ‘food self-sufficiency’ the SCRD Board likes to tout.

The Sechelt Indian Band itself, working substantively towards having us realize such an objective, could and should be righteously putting on the pressure to create the infrastructure needed to expand our supply of water. There was sure as hell no shortage of it until we all showed up.

I served from 1999 to 2005 on Regional Boards that came into existence with the turfing out of all but one elected director. Over those six years we built a long needed water-purification plant, created a referendum that put a pool in Sechelt and the recreation facility in Gibsons, developed Shirley Macey Park, saved what is now Francis Point Park from private development and dealt with broad-based zoning issues in Pender Harbour.

The coast could learn from that often contentious but clearly effective stretch of regional governance that there is no intrinsic advantage to the citizenry in re-electing incumbents. (Sechelt is doomed in this regard because its candidate list for the November local elections swarms with past and present incumbents.)

And what is it they offer……’experience’. Well it is overwhelmingly the experience of failing to do their jobs. You know the adage: For some people twenty years is just the same year over and over again.

In my experience not only are regional governance processes entirely comprehensible to anyone wanting to actually read the rules by which local government is supposed to operate but they are in principal required to make decisions on the basis of data comprehensible to the public….if accountability is to be possible.

It’s not that complicated. Read the Community Charter if you want to know how to govern at the municipal level…..the Local Government Act for regional government. They are a tad dry but not all that lengthy. It seems to me they were developed in an attempt to ameliorate various forms of self-serving idiocy in which B.C.’s local politicians have indulged over the decades, even if they are seriously undermined by the lack of measures to enforce them.

The gist of them might be that local government is charged with providing core infrastructure and refereeing development, not advocating for it. Those who will profit from it are well capable of doing that.

When we see politicians ‘celebrating’ ‘victory’, fundamentally they don’t get it. The job is not about them and they haven’t won anything. They have been hired. An election is a hiring process in which you prove after your election that you are worthy of the job. And certainly here on the Sunshine Coast, (particularly in Sechelt, with its still current council having suborned both the practice and appropriate culture of democracy and on the Regional Board that is failing utterly to deal with future demand for water, they have not done so.

If you run to serve as the personal representative of particular citizens….as some unabashedly do, you are suborning democracy. What the job really requires is for you to do your best for the ephemeral, widely diverse, often politically, socially and economically schizophrenic entity called a community.

In doing so, the importance of the job is not indicative of your own. If elected you will have the honor, first and foremost of sustaining a democratic process, something seemingly quickly forgotten if ever ‘gotten’ by many of those we elect at all levels of government.

As for claims by some electees that they are the best and brightest…..well, were it so, they would hardly be representative, would they?

It verges on depressing to think that folks in my blessed bailiwick of Halfmoon Bay, with its bucolically sane environment, would not be affected by it politically. But it has not been for three terms now with a similarly uninspiring fourth on the doorstep.

Sechelt has not for a very long time elected municipal councils suggestive of a self-respectful electorate. Those several prior to the current batch of incumbents are only thought of nostalgically, if at all, because the latter have been such an embarrassment. I mean, how can you vote into government to serve broad interest those whose primary focus and core economic view is self-interest?

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