Just days to QC referendum decision

  • Jan. 12, 2005 6:00 a.m.

By Heidi Bevington–In just a few days the Queen Charlotte/Skidegate Landing Incorporation Study Committee will vote ‘yeah’ or ‘nay’ on recommending an incorporation referendum, but committee chair Leslie Johnson won’t speculate about which way the vote will go.
Since last spring, the committee has held public meetings and organised a study to consider the impact of incorporation. Monday night, it held a public meeting. About 60 residents attended and a straw vote showed about two thirds supported holding a referendum. That vote, along with the incorporation study, a financial offer from the province, and personal communication with voters will guide the committee when it makes its decision.
Monday’s meeting began when Cathy Watson of the Ministry of Community Services outlined what the provincial offer would be if incorporation passes. Then, consultant Tom Reid explained how local government would change and the likely cost of road maintenance and taxes if the community incorporates. Finally, Area F director Carol Kulesha talked about the regional district and expressed her views on the limitations of the present system.
The provincial offer includes grants from the Ministry of Community Services as well as the Ministry of Transport.
oa one time grant of $250 per person, totalling about $261,000.
oan administrative transfer grant of $50,000.
oa continuing small-communities grant of about $175,000.
oa possible rebate of the provincial rural tax.
othe province would continue to maintain the highway from Skidegate Landing to Cemetery Road.
othe province would maintain the community’s side roads for 5 years.
The new municipality would include all of Skidegate Landing and Queen Charlotte. However, there are different service levels, because some areas have sewer and water while others do not. If the community incorporates, only those areas with services will pay for them, just as now.
If the community incorporates, a five-member council will replace the current management committee. The regional district will have a reduced role, with very little change in the role of the province, said Mr. Reid.
The new municipality would become responsible for 8.6 km of roads, which Mr. Reid estimates will cost about $50,000 a year to maintain. The village would also need to spend between $484,000 and $585,000 for public works in the first nine years.
Residents had a lot of questions about road maintenance, including the likely condition of the roads after five years. Ms Kulesha said the maintenance contractor would be obliged to maintain them to the same standard as now, and to leave them in a reasonable condition for the municipality to take over.
He also reviewed likely tax impacts. If council decided not to change service levels, taxes would change little.
Mr. Reid ended by saying incorporation would mean a trade-off for the community with a gain in autonomy, but also more obligations. Resident Gary Wunsch asked how adding another layer of government would add to his autonomy, and Mr. Reid said he meant the autonomy of the community. Mr. Wunsch said he was concerned about losing the freedom he enjoyed as the resident of an unincorporated community.
After Mr. Reid, Area F regional director Carol Kulesha spoke about the frustrations of having the regional district manage the community’s affairs. The community is losing out on economic opportunities like a community forest because of not being incorporated, she said.
At the end of the meeting, after asking for a show of hands to see who supported a referendum, Ms Johnson explained several factors would influence the committee’s decision. The community response was important, but they would also consider the province’s offer, and feed-back from others who couldn’t attend.
The study committee will meet at the management committee office January 17 at 7:30 pm. The public is welcome to attend.