By Heidi Bevington–The Queen Charlotte/Skidegate Landing Incorporation Study committee met Monday to follow up on the community meeting held in September with consultant Tom Reid.
The meeting began with Mr. Reid fielding some questions about who can vote if incorporation goes to a referendum. Property owners, both resident and absent, and tenants can vote in an incorporation referendum, said Mr. Reid. Voters need to be residents of the community for 30 days to be eligible. An advanced poll could be held for people who will be away, but no mail in ballot will be possible.
The discussion turned to roads, about which the committee had several questions. Roads would become a municipal responsibility with the exception of Highway 33, which the province will continue to maintain. After discussing some particular examples such as Eagle Hill Road which may in fact be mostly driveway, Area F director Carol Kulesha suggested the committee look at a list of roads to be clear who’s responsible for what.
Next the committee discussed possible municipal boundaries. Mr. Reid began by describing the four different boundaries that already exist around the community. The sewer and water boundary of Queen Charlotte is the smallest. Next largest is the fire protection and street light boundary, which includes Skidegate Landing. The community plan boundary goes a little further north into crown land and out as far as the water treatment plant at the Tarundl River, and the Area F electoral boundary is the largest, which includes Lina Island, part of Kagan Bay in the west and butts up almost to the Skidegate Reservation in the east.
Mr Reid suggested that the municipal boundary needed to be large enough to encompass the whole community, but not too large, and that a decision would have to be made about whether to include islands like Lina Island which might be challenging to service properly.
Committee member Duncan White suggested the islands and Kagan Bay should be included so that the community could have some control over what happens to these areas. Mr. Reid suggested some caution about making the boundaries too large. “Going to far afield could be a problem because municipal regulations could change and responsibility for the islands could be a burden later on,” he said. And municipal bylaws cannot prevent activity like logging if it is approved at a higher government level.
However, “a municipality needs to have enough geography to exercise authority and control,” Mr. Reid said. Area F could be a reasonable choice. Including the area would mean no extra costs in the short term, and the forested area could become a source of taxes if forest licensees became active there.
The committee looked over a map of the area, and noticed that Area F didn’t include the Honna/Stanley Lake watershed area. The members thought that having the whole watershed in the municipality could be a good idea since the community water supply might come from there in the future. It could also open up recreation opportunities in the Kagan Bay and Sleeping Beauty areas, which are beyond the Area F boundary, suggested Mr. White.
Committee chair Leslie Johnson pointed out that expanding beyond the Area F boundary to Kagan Bay and Stanley Lake could potentially concern the Council of the Haida Nation because Slatechuk mountain is close by, and that it was important to be clear that the community doesn’t want to include that area in its boundary.
Mr. Reid said that keeping the watershed in the municipal boundary would make sense, but it could only happen if the province agreed. The first step would be to ask the province if that area could be included. If the answer is no, he expected the province would let the committee know quickly.
The discussion moved to governance and how a village council would differ from the management committee that already exists.
Like the management committee, the council would be elected, said Mr. Reid, and it would have employees. However, the community probably wouldn’t have any more municipal employees than the management committee already has. “Small municipalities are very efficient,” he said.
Incorporation would not necessarily mean more government, just a redistribution of it, said Mr. Reid. The council would have more power over the community, while the regional district and province would have less.
The committee discussed the fire department, and how it might change after incorporation. Presently the fire department is a non-profit society run by volunteers. It could continue that way if the community incorporates, said Mr. Reid. However, if it chooses to become a municipal service, the department would have access to better insurance. It would continue to be staffed by volunteers. And the fire department’s reserves could be set aside in a special reserve account to be used for fire department expenses only, not rolled into a general account.
The next meeting will be November 22. Mr. Reid will give the committee a draft report of the incorporation study to review before producing a final copy to be presented to the public in January.
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