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“I am a Canadian, free to speak without fear, free to worship in my own way, free to stand for what I think right, free to oppose what I believe wrong, or free to choose those who shall govern my country. This heritage of freedom I pledge to uphold for myself and all mankind.” ~~ John G. Diefenbaker

STEVE FORSETH -- Electoral Areas need provincial/federal infrastructure grant programs that don’t force Electoral Areas to compete against bigger communities

This past Saturday – Saanich North and the Islands MLA Adam Olsen wrote in this blog about getting on with a fiscal framework for BC’s Local Governments -- which has been discussed for many years with Provincial Governments of different political stripes (Socreds, NDP, BC Liberals) however I want to look at this from an Electoral Area point of view…

There are 155 Electoral Areas in BC today (these Electoral Areas were created in 1965 along with the corresponding Regional District – 27 in BC today) each with 1 representative from each of these Electoral Areas.  And in of these Electoral Areas, there are quite a few unincorporated communities whose local government is the nearby Regional District. 

Electoral Areas can have total population ranging from 400 in the Hixon area (Regional District of Fraser-Fort George, Electoral Area ‘E’) to as much as 8,000 in the South Shuswap (Columbia Shuswap Regional District, Electoral Area ‘C’).  Each unincorporated community is unique in their own way and have distinct needs and it is up to the Electoral Area Director to advocate for those unincorporated communities in his/her Electoral Area at the local Regional District board table

For many years – Regional Districts’ have pleaded with both provincial/federal governments that their infrastructure grant programs are not designed to meet the very unique water/sewer and other community infrastructure needs in Electoral Areas and their unincorporated community needs. 

For example -- $10 million water system program, the Provincial/Federal governments might cover as much as $5 million of the costs (if the local Regional District is awarded a grant covering this cost) with the remainder being borne by local taxpayers (typically in the $2-4 million).  

These Electoral Areas typically can have many seniors’ have residing within them and have fixed incomes and any reasonable-minded Area Director is not going to commit a huge cost onto their small unincorporated community tax base for a basic service, even when it is very worthy…

What Electoral Areas really need is provincial/federal infrastructure grant programs that don’t force Electoral Areas to compete against bigger communities like towns/cities, with bigger populations, who have same infrastructure challenges but “bigger vote bases” to choose from. 

We also need the provincial/federal governments to share the “scorecards” to see why a particular infrastructure grant application failed so the Regional District can improve their next grant application

If we can have infrastructure grant programs designed for the different types of local governments in BC (Electoral Areas & Municipal Councils’) – I believe the goal outlined by MLA Olsen around having a robust fiscal toolbox for local governments, both Regional Districts’ and Municipal Councils’ to do their important work they do for their respective residents’, can be met.

 

Steve Forseth is a 2nd term Cariboo Regional District Electoral Area ‘D’ Director representing Commodore Heights – McLeese Lake on the Cariboo Regional District Board of Directors’.

He was recently was elected to the position of 2nd Vice President of the North Central Local Government Association for a 1-year term

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