Salt Spring Island is a community of approximately 10, 200 on one of the larger Gulf Islands. It is located in both the Capital Regional District and the Islands Trust area, and receives services from both of these entities, as well as the Province and a handful of improvement districts.
A governance study was completed in 2013 that inventoried the variety of services provided by local public bodies, the extent of their integration, and the governance and service issues of greatest concern to residents. The study committee concluded that there was significant community interest in exploring how these issues could be addressed through municipal incorporation.
The local elected officials - electoral area director, Wayne McIntyre and Island Trust trustees Peter Grove and George Grams - requested an incorporation study to do just that. The Minister of Community, Sport and Cultural Development (Minister) agreed to fund an incorporation study and is supporting the study process with total grant funds of $120,000.
Purpose & Objectives
The purpose of the study is to provide the Salt Spring Island community with appropriate information to make an informed decision about whether or not to incorporate should the Minister order an incorporation referendum. This means the study content will compare the existing rural governance arrangement currently in place on Salt Spring Island to a municipal model as authorized under existing legislation. The study is not a governance options study, nor a study of changes to the legislative framework.
The specific objectives of the SSI Incorporation Study are to:
- Provide local citizens with complete and accurate information to make an informed decision on island incorporation;
- Provide input to and receive an Offer of Restructuring Assistance, including a service transition strategy, from the province in the event of a decision to incorporate.
The following is included in the Study:
- A thorough, objective and technical examination of the current situation and implications of the changes that would come with incorporation, modeling the authorities, operation and finances of a Salt Spring Island Municipality;
- Dissemination of the research and analysis through public engagement and consultation to residents and property owners.
- A recommendation for whether or not to proceed with a referendum on incorporation;
- A Study area to include all of Salt Spring Island and any islands in Ganges Harbour that are within an area of water extending 300 metres from the natural high water mark off Salt Spring Island.
The following is specifically excluded from the Study:
- Evaluation of other forms of governance or changes to the legislative framework. The decision to fund an incorporation study for Salt Spring Island limits the scope of the study only to municipal incorporation;
- A vote or decision to proceed with incorporation. If deemed appropriate, this is a subsequent step which will be decided upon and ordered by the Minister;
- Islands not within the study area. Ministry and Islands Trust will work together to determine which local trust area(s) will include the remaining islands should Salt Spring Island electors choose to incorporate;
- First Nations consultation. This is a duty of the Provincial Government;
- Assessment of the impact of municipal incorporation on Islands Trust. The Islands Trust is responsible for determining how the organization would adapt and remain fiscally stable. The recently completed and provincially-funded Islands Trust Impact Analysis report was prepared to assist in this regard.
Approach & Deliverables
Key elements of the approach to the SSI Incorporation Study are:
- Local elected officials will establish an incorporation study committee;
- The study committee will select one or more qualified consultants and will guide the consultant it its research, analysis, communication and discussion activities;
- The consultants will gather information, prepare a comparative analysis and facilitate public discussion of the current and potential change to local government structure and the impacts of change. The consultants will document the comparative analysis and issue both a preliminary and a final incorporation study report;
- The study committee will design, with assistance from the consultant if desired, a public engagement and consultation process which will:
- establish parameters for public participation so that residents and property owners understand the opportunities to participate in the incorporation study;
- disseminate preliminary results of the comparative analysis;
- solicit feedback on the comparative analysis, community interests and concerns;
- identify additional points of refinement of the comparative analysis;
- disseminate final conclusions of the comparative analysis;
- The Study process will include a discussion of a service transfer strategy with Ministry, committee and consultant;
- The Ministry will submit an Offer of Restructuring Assistance to be included in the final report;
- At completion, the study committee will convey the study findings, which may be accompanied by a recommendation to order an incorporation vote, to the CRD Senior Manager, Legislative and Information Services, and to the Minister, through Ministry staff;
- Committee meetings will be open to the public other than selected provincially-mandated in camera meetings.
The final incorporation study report will include:
- a description of the potential municipal boundary and current rural governance arrangements, including: community demographics, economics, profiles of services (broadly defined, including infrastructure) and a review of community issues;
- a comparison of the characteristics of Salt Spring Island (e.g. boundary area, population, number and level of services, etc.) with existing municipalities;
- a summary of the financial, social, administrative, political and service delivery implications of a Salt Spring Island municipality, including average property tax implications for residences and businesses, contrasted against the current situation;
- a description of the transfer of current levels of services from the province, regional district, improvement districts and the Islands Trust to a municipality upon incorporation;
- an overview of the offer of restructuring assistance from the Province;
- a multi-year operating budget projection for a proposed island municipality, including a budget beyond the payment schedule for restructuring assistance provided by the Province.
There are two key dates which have been set by the Ministry:
- The preliminary incorporation study report is due to the Minister by September 30, 2015;
- The Study must be completed and the final incorporation study report delivered to the Minister by March 31, 2016.
The consultant will provide copies of these reports to the Committee for review and comment at least two weeks prior to their due date.