The bureaucracy of old growth, and pushing back against low voter turnout
Council updates from Metchosin and Sooke
In its first regular meeting as a council, residents asked that Metchosin sign on to an open declaration calling for a stop to old-growth logging and greater protections for forests. While each councillor said they agreed with the sentiments of the declaration, they voted 3-2 against signing on.
Coun. Jay Shukin said he was “reluctant to sign on to this simply because of where it originates. I would feel very differently if it came from a local government source.” He, Coun. Shelly Donaldson and Mayor Marie-Térèse Little said the letter didn’t overlap with municipal jurisdiction. They also didn’t like being the first municipality to sign on. Other signatories are non-governmental climate organizing groups like Awi'nakoIa Tree of Life Foundation (Kwakwaka'wakw Nation), the BC chapter of Canadian Association of Physicians, Climate Justice Victoria, the David Suzuki Foundation, and Dogwood.
Joan Rosenberg, who spoke in support of signing, said the group, United for Old Growth, is just beginning to reach out to municipalities for support. “You just got stuck as the first because you’re my municipality.” Couns. Steve Gray and Sharie Epp voted in favour.
Pushing back against low voter turnout in Sooke
Sooke Mayor Maja Tait wants to rearrange how committee of the whole meetings are used to try to increase public engagement.
“I took it seriously when I saw [voter] turnout drop so significantly in our community,” she said at the Nov. 14 council meeting. “Local government is the level of government closest to the people. We interfere with and upset everybody routinely, and yet we saw low turnout. We need to find a different way of conducting business.”
Her idea is to encourage the public to bring their concerns and issues to committee of the whole meetings where there isn’t a packed agenda. Regular council meetings start at 7pm, and the more involvement there is the later the meetings go. Council unanimously agreed to hold 1pm committee of the whole meetings on the third Monday of the month, and occasionally also the first Monday.
Those meetings can be less formal—she cited ideas from other communities such as hosting the meeting at the high school to get students involved, or offering hot food to encourage people to attend. The committee of the whole meetings are also a good opportunity for councillors to report back on their work at intra-municipal committee work, since time is often tight in regular council meetings but the information is important.