Regional districts: how are new services established?

Lasqueti receives a number of regional services via PRRD, including the fire department, solid waste management, barge ramp, library, regional parks, etc.

How are regional services established?

Recall from the provincial “Primer on Regional Districts in British Columbia( that regional districts are for the most part voluntary and consensual organizations.  Regional districts are designed to only provide the services that their residents agree they should provide.

The Local Government Act codifies these principles in law in Part 10 (Regional Districts: Service Structure and Establishing Bylaws), Division 4 (Approval of Establishing Bylaws).

In general, new services must be “approved” by Lasqueti in one of four ways (section 342):

  1. A referendum with at least 50% of the votes in favour (section 344: approval by assent of the electors).
  2. A “counter-petition” with no more than 10% of the electors against (section 345 and Community Charter section 86). This “alternative approval process” can only be done for certain types of services.
  3. A petition signed by owners of at least 50% of the parcels and at least 50% of the land value (section 337). This also requires consent in writing by the regional director or a 2/3 vote by the Board.
  4. Consent by the regional director on behalf of the electoral area in writing (section 347) for certain services, provided the service does not require borrowing.

The North Island 911 dispatch system would require two new regional services for Lasqueti: house numbering and 911 emergency telephone service.  As these services already exist for other areas in the PRRD, the PRRD tried to establish these on Lasqueti by amending the establishing bylaws (section 350) and passing the first 3 readings of the amendments at the Dec 17, 2014 Board meeting. This means the PRRD Board has approved them in-principle and adoption now hinges only on a single vote by the Board for final reading.

Approval from Lasqueti was done by “consent on behalf of Lasqueti” by our regional director, Merrick, without any prior community consultation. This consent may have followed the letter of the law, but did not follow the foundational principle that regional districts are supposed to only provide the services that the community agrees they should provide (i.e. consensual and voluntary).

What should have happened in a well-functioning, representative democracy? Consent from our regional director should only have been granted following meaningful community consultation of the new "proposed services", and after he received a clear mandate from the community to request the new services. Given that the Lasqueti community has so overwhelmingly objected to the new services, the consent granted by our regional director should not have occurred.