Transparent or veiled?

Editorial by Julie Andres
January 25, 2008, Bowen Island Undercurrent

The newspaper for Salt Spring Island, the Gulf Islands Driftwood, arrives in the Undercurrent mailbox every week. The Jan. 9 issue had three letters in which Bowen Island was mentioned; all of them concerned the issue of incorporating into a municipality.

It seems that, with the rare designation of island municipality, Bowen is used as an example by those on Salt Spring who are firmly against incorporation. As elections for Islands Trust and Capital Regional District representatives near, the topic is the subject of rather hot debate.

One letter—under the headline “Municipality not needed”—warned that incorporation would “ … gum up the works even more than they are now because it would add one more layer of bureaucracy …“. It goes on to say that a municipal government would be so concerned with so many issues that the Islands Trust mandate to ‘preserve and protect’ Salt Spring Island “ … would get lost in the shuffle.

In the case of our neighbour Bowen Island that has chosen incorporation into a municipality, their land use decisions are made by the very entity that will financially benefit (taxes) from the development potential of the lands. If that isn’t conflict of interest, I don’t know what is,” continues the writer.

Another letter, from a reader in favour of alternatives to incorporation who wanted to become more informed on the ramifications of becoming a municipality, and the lack of transparency that could result, reads, “In an effort to get myself better informed, I looked up Bowen Island’s website and felt alarmed at the lack of [Islands] Trust representation or mentioning.

The third letter was from a CRD director and had a reference to Bowen that was directed toward a pro-incorporation group (Islanders for Self Government) spokesperson. George Holman corrected an earlier letter to the Driftwood where the ISG proponent said that Bowen Island had frozen its taxes for five years. (It’d be nice if becoming a municipality made things go that way, wouldn’t it?)

It’s too late for us to go back—attend any rezoning discussion in council chambers and you’ll see that the layer between developers and the Islands Trust’s ‘preserve and protect’ mandate is alive and well. As Bowen Islanders, we must keep our mayor and council accountable and ask ourselves if our elected officials are allowing developers to dominate with tacit promises of a broader tax base.