Trust asks how it can be more effective

In 2007 and 2008 the Islands Trust was navel gazing and wanted the public’s help doing it. It looked at possible changes to its structure so it could do a better job.

Here’s GIA’s report at the time on the governance review:

Because local government generally plays a bigger role in our lives than senior governments, it’s a time for us to be extra vigilant.

A consultant has released a 39-page report on ways the Trust might change. (It’s available at Open ‘Trust Council,’ select ‘Governance Task Force’ and then open ‘Islands Trust Governance Review Report.’)

Much attention is given the fact that the Trust is no sterling example of representation by population. Rather, its unique mandate is to protect a special area as much or more than be responsive to local wishes. Each of its 13 island areas, no matter how big or small their populations, elects two trustees. However, island populations and related demands on the Trust have grown substantially since the Trust was formed. Salt Spring, in particular, is feeling that pressure. Consequently the report considers whether more trustees should be added to Salt Spring’s Local Trust Committee or even to other LTCs, as well as whether the additional Trustees should sit on Trust Council.

The report also looks at how the Trust relates to the overlapping of jurisdictions of regional districts, such as the Capital Regional District.

The trust formed a 13-member governance task force last year in response to public demands for changes needed to “meet new challenges and better represent issues and concerns,” said Trust Chair Kim Benson.

If, for instance, the Trust wants to add a third and fourth trustee to Salt Spring’s roster and/or reduce North and South Pender’s complement from four to two, or adopt a ‘double direct’ election process which would enable more local trustees to be elected while continuing to send only two from each island area to Trust Council, it will need provincial legislative approval by next spring to be ready for local elections later the same year.

Because it won’t act without resident and property owner input, 11 public meetings were held this spring.

This month Trust Council will decide whether to recommend amendments to Trust Act.

Needless to say, governance is a complicated business. What may be suitable for a small island may not work well on a big one.

The Gulf Islands Alliance has one over-all concern – that no changes made to Trust governance lead to weakening the Trust’s preserve and protect mandate. At this point in our young life, we’ve reached no conclusions about what changes we can collectively support.

We sympathize with trustees from the more populous islands who cope with heavy workloads. We feel unease when fingers are pointed at perceived inadequacies of the Trust. We hear those who say a move toward municipal status would be a serious political and financial threat to the effectiveness, if not the very existence, of the Trust.

We encourage all Trust advocates to support changes that will sustain, even strengthen, the Trust and all its islands together.