Most candidates electoral area candidates who responded to a Progress election question believe FVRD restructuring is fair to rural constituents.
But Michael Henshall, Electoral Area D candidate, said if elected he would propose that municipal directors “opt out of certain FVRD voting decisions.”
“I do not feel rural residents are fairly represented,” he said. “The shift in balance of power has given larger municipalities a balance of the votes over issues that may only affect rural areas.”
The restructuring eliminated the Electoral Area Service Committee and merged FVRD operations into two divisions, the Regional and Corporate Services Committee and the Community and Regulatory Services Committee.
Mel Waardenburg, Electoral Area C candidate, said he believes rural area representation at the FVRD board needs to be reviewed as populations increase.
“I live in the Harrison Mills area of Electoral Area C and the population has doubled in the last couple of years, and Hemlock Valley is poised for a huge expansion,” he said.
David Lamson, incumbent director in Electoral Area E, called for more seats for electoral area directors on the new Regional and Corporate Services Committee, which is currently dominated by municipal directors.
He also proposed dividing Electoral Area E in two, with a director for the Chilliwack River Valley and another for Cultus Lake/Columbia Valley.
“This would give each new area representation more proportional to its population,” he said.
Lloyd Forman, incumbent director in Area A said he believes the restructuring is “weighted too heavily in favour of municipalities.”
“The seven electoral areas only have the regional district as a form of local government, so it is much more important to us,” he said. “This brings a fair bit of tension when our input is limited.”
But Bill Dickey, the incumbent director in Area D, said he believes the restructuring has “resulted in considerable improvement in the governance of our rural community.”
“The ability of the local community to set direction and influence policy has been promoted and this will translate into a more democratic form of government,” he said.
Area B candidate Andy Bishop, Area C candidate Colin Faulkner, Area E candidate Taryn Dixon and Area F incumbent Dick Bogstie all felt the restructuring was fair.
The complete responses of all the candidates will be posted on The Progress website.
Six election candidates did not respond to the question by press time Wednesday.
Candidates’ complete responses to Question Two:
Do you feel rural residents are fairly represented at the FVRD board by the recent restructuring of the regional government? If not, how would you address the inequity, if you are elected?
Lloyd Forman Area A
I believe that the restructuring has weighted it too heavily in favour of municipalities. If the restructure is to be successful it must have respect built in. I believe that respect is missing. The voting structure on the Regional District is weighted to account for the larger population municipalities. I don’t disagree with that. But the problem is, that committees are put together with very little input from the rural areas. But the fact is that the Province has mandated the municipalities to a second level of local government and it is not always well received by our urban neighbours.
The seven electoral areas only have the Regional District as a form of local government, so it is much more important to us.
This brings a fair bit of tension when our input is limited.
An earlier C.A.O. of the Regional District used to say the big issues will get sorted out, the danger is in the little dissatisfiers that add up to trouble. I believe that this restructure falls into that category and could easily be resolved inexpensively by showing respect and listening. If re-elected my main concern shall be with leadership and our style of doing business.
Andy Bishop, Area B
I believe the rural residents are fairly represented by the restructuring. The amalgamation of the committees created considerable savings for the tax payers. If elected I would attend the meetings to ensure Area B is well represented.
Colin Faulkner, Area C
I do believe the rural residents are represented fairly because the restructuring is designed to allow local governments to manage local needs. I can only say that I encourage the rural residents to get out and vote as this is where it begins, In order to have the person you feel is right to represent your area, you have to get out and make your vote count. I don’t believe the structure has to change but I do believe people should take more of an interest in local politics as this where most of the local issues are resolved.
Mel Waardenburg, Area C
I believe that at a regional standpoint we are represented proportionally with the population that is in the area, as the population increases in the area more representation will be required. I live in Harrison Mills area of electoral area C and the population has doubled in the last couple of years and Hemlock Valley is poised for a huge expansion.
I believe that the FVRD needs to review the proportion of population to representation, as the federal government has recently done, and make changes to the representation accordingly.
Michael Henshall, Area D
I do not feet rural residents are fairly represented by the recent restructuring of the regional government. The shift in balance of power has given the larger municipalities a balance of the votes over issues that may only affect rural areas.
For example: regional directors in Abbotsford should not have the balance of the say over an issue that will only affect Bridal Falls. If elected I would propose a weighted vote for area directors where an issue only affects that region. I would also propose to the board of directors that the municipalities should opt-out of certain FVRD voting decisions.
Bill Dickey, Area D
The restructuring over the past year has resulted in considerable improvements in the governance of our rural community. The ability for the local community to set direction and influence policy has been promoted and this will translate into a more democratic form of government. We have seen some major progress and, if allowed to continue, we will see a stronger and healthier community. Every government has room for improvement but I feel we are now moving in the right direction.
Taryn Dixon, Area E
It is my understanding that the recent Regional District restructuring began as a natural progression in an organization. I think that when organizations are trying to align their systems and improve efficiency, this is a good process and something healthy organizations need to do.
A member of the Senior Management was retiring and FVRD took this opportunity to look at its processes and committee structure to see if there was a better way to operate in order to be more efficient with time and funds.
At the same time some of the Board Members raised concerns that the way costs were allocated to communities was unfair and they wanted to try to ensure they were getting value for their tax dollars.
There was discussion that the funding formula was not equitable and that communities should pay for the services they receive. Staff was asked to review current practices and make recommendations back to the board. The staff spent a long period of time trying to devise a formula that was fair and represented the true cost of doing business, while maintaining a high level of service to those citizens living in the Regional District. The recommendations were passed by the board. I trust that the staff is well educated and did the job they were asked to do.
The Board passed their recommendations and therefore it would be prudent to give the new structure a chance to see if a more equitable system has actually been designed. If elected I’d like to ensure that there is a system in place to reevaluate the restructuring in order to determine whether or not it has created a more fair and equitable system as was the intention.
David Lamson, Area E
I believe rural residents of FVRD continue to have fair representation at the Board; but, there is room for improvement.
The services relating only to rural areas are dealt with by the Community and Regulatory Services Committee (CARS), which was the old Electoral Area Services Committee.
This committee works like a council of the seven electoral directors; but, all decisions must be taken to a board meeting for final approval.
At the Board meeting these decisions may be scrutinized and discussed by all directors; but, in most cases only the electoral area directors have the vote.
Regional district-wide services, such as hospitals, parks, waste management, and mosquito control are considered at the board level and voted on by all twenty directors, sometimes as a weighted vote depending on whose paying most of the bill.
The old Executive Committee, Parks Committee and Environment Committee were combined into the new Regional and Corporate Services Committee (RCSC).
This combining was meant to save duplication and to streamline regional services.
Considerable savings were achieved; however, a number of the electoral area directors lost their committee positions as this new committee followed the structure of the old Executive Committee which was made up of mostly of mayors with only two electoral directors.
I propose additional positions for electoral area directors on this new committee.
Electoral Area E has a population of more than double that of any other electoral area but only one director with one vote at the FVRD. I have previously proposed and will continue to advocate for dividing Electoral Area E into two electoral areas, each with its own director, one being the Chilliwack River Valley and one of Cultus Lake/Columbia Valley. This would give each new area representation more proportional to its population.
Dick Bogstie, Area F
Yes. (fair) The rural residents are paying fully for those services which are attributable just to rural areas. There is no subsidizing by the cities. There is clear distinction of rural and total regional costs. This was managed without increasing taxes to the rural areas even though there was a significant shift of costs from cities to rural. While it would be nice to have more money to spend on expanded services there is a limit to increased taxes.