British Columbia

Salt Spring Island to vote on becoming municipality

A previous vote on incorporation in 2002 failed with 70 per cent of the voters opposed.

September referendum could end governance by officials 'that don't live on Salt Spring Island'

St. Mary Lake is one of Salt Spring Island's main water sources. (Megan Thomas/CBC)

Salt Spring Island will vote in September on its own version of home rule. 

This week, the B.C. Government announced a referendum for Sept. 9 on incorporation as a town or municipality of the largest of the southern Gulf Islands.

Wayne McIntyre, a Salt Spring Electoral Area director, said interest in incorporation stems from a perceived lack of coordination between the different agencies responsible for island services and policies.

Some residents, he said, want to see an end to decision making by officials who don't live on Salt Spring Island.

McIntyre is one of three Salt Spring representatives on the board of the Capital Regional District, which oversees services such as parks and recycling.

In addition, the provincially mandated Islands Trust is responsible for land-use decisions to "preserve and protect" Salt Spring and the other Southern Gulf Islands.

Two weighty studies were prepared to help residents weigh the pros and cons of becoming a municipality.

Salt Spring Island dollars have been in circulation since 2001 and are accepted by local businesses on par with Canadian currency. The bills feature images of local historical figures and art work by island artisans. (Salt Spring Island Monetary Foundation)

The first compared the two forms of governance, while the second, totaling more than 300 pages, included estimated costs of services after incorporation.

 "That's what most people want to know: 'what do I get and what do I have to pay?'" McIntyre told On the Island host Gregor Craigie.

The short answer, he said, is that a residential property assessed at $480,000 would pay an extra $10 a year under incorporation, and a business would pay $50 more, according to the study.

The Bowen Island model 

McIntyre said the proposed governance model is similar to Bowen Island which is an island municipality within the Islands Trust. "But most decisions, at very least a starting point, would be made on-island," he said.

 Pro and anti-incorporation groups are already active. The island's three CRD directors will sponsor more debates before the vote.

McIntyre said he will wait until he hears all the public debates before deciding whether or not to support incorporation.

With files from On the Island