Has the Sunshine Coast Grown Up?
Back in the 90s, the BC Government was in favour of amalgamation of the unincorporated areas of the Sunshine Coast, into one or more incorporated areas. This action would’ve given our remote area more autonomy into our own affairs. An example of this is the District of Sechelt, which governs a population greater than 5,000 people.
What was then known as the Sechelt Indian Government District would always remain outside of any other amalgamated areas, so they will not be considered a part of any restructuring conversation here.
Let’s look at how things still work, based upon the government structure that still exists since that time. Sechelt is responsible for its own police and fire protection, because of its population, so it’s taxes are higher in order to provide the services it requires.
Port Mellon, Hillside Industrial Park, Twin Creeks, West How Sound ( Area F ), Elphinstone ( Area E), Roberts Creek ( Area D ), Halfmoon Bay ( Area B ), and Pender Harbour ( Area A ) make up the balance of unincorporated areas, that have some populated sections, and other remote areas. The tax base of all of these areas belongs to the Province of BC. That means that we have no say in how or where our property tax money is returned or spent. It was often said that Lilloett got more benefit from our taxes than we did.
The Town of Gibsons, while incorporated, has not surpassed that magic number of 5,000 population, so it doesn’t bear the burden of police and fire to the same extent as Sechelt.
The same old guard that defeated better recreation centres in the 90s, for half the cost of what we currently have, kept that status quo of government, because they liked the little kingdoms they ran. It didn’t matter to them how much money the province kept, because they served their own interests, and profited from that.
Have you seen the way the snow plow, highway maintenance, or ditch maintenance stops at Jack Road in Sechelt, and then picks up again towards Redroofs Road? That’s one example of the Province giving us back our dollars, but they stop at Sechelt. North Road past Reed, the Bypass to nowhere, and all of the roads to the north-west of Gibsons are maintained by the Province, when they want.
During the election of 1996, there were suggestions of growing Gibsons to take in Areas E and F, and perhaps a portion of D. Sechelt would take in the other portion of D, and perhaps Area B up to around Secret Cove, leaving the balance north-west to Pender Harbour.
The Regional District will always be the umbrella that these new governments operate under, and provide the table for joint discussions. Sensibly, these new governments should only take in the populated areas, while the unpopulated areas, and watershed would still remain under Regional District purview. Other regional items like water, garbage, sewer, roads, and recreation should all remain at that regional table, so that needed services get to where they are needed most, while providing more local control over what we really need to do.
Do we need all of that government? In the old days, no one would agree with the other about service provision. Pender Harbour water was plagued with arsenic, and no one else wanted to correct that. The 3 government, plus SIGD, plus the SCRD, was one option, since it was unlikely to see one government plus SIGD, plus SCRD.
Imagine one building department, one planning department, and the same rules for all of our 95 kilometres of the Sunshine Coast. How much would be saved by having one Works department? Is government the largest employer on the Sunshine Coast? Do they keep on growing whenever they want. What about one Administrator, and one COO, and one CEO, and all of their support staff? What about all of the buildings and structures they use? Could we find better uses for those, other than duplication.
Would the taxes go up in Gibsons, and the other incorporated areas? Maybe. Incorporating and restructuring would not give any government the right nor ability to rape and pillage industry and business on the Sunshine Coast, but it would give us, the taxpayers more say in what happens, and how it gets done.
Are we ready to put our big boy and big girl pants on?
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