WATCH: Residents and property owners on Salt Spring Island are facing an important vote that will determine the Island’s governance moving forward.
They’re deciding whether to incorporate and become a municipality. Kendall Hanson reports.
Referendum Day on Salt Spring Island
The Pride Celebration is one of the most colourful days on Salt Spring Island. Hundreds flocked to Ganges for the annual parade and festivities.
It was also a day for the Island’s residents to show their civic pride by voting in a referendum. People are deciding whether Salt Spring Island should incorporate and become a municipality.
Those voting yes say it would lead to more efficient and better planning.
“So that we can prioritize our decisions within one council and one budget and make our decisions going forward with vision rather than reaction which is what our current system does,” said Ken Marr with Vote Yes for a Salt Spring Island Municipality.
The vote yes side says Salt Spring Island is under represented on the Islands Trust as it’s the most populated Gulf Island with close to 11,000 people and adding affordable housing is slow and difficult with the number of government bodies that need approvals.
“When I grew up here population was just over 2-thousand,” said Marr. “It was quite conceivable for someone to go through their schooling here get a job here and stay on this island. It’s becoming more and more difficult to the point of almost being impossible. If we don’t make some changes now we’re going to have more difficulty as we go forward in the future.”
The no side says Salt Spring Island’s current government has been working just fine.
“We would not like to see the Islands Trust weakened,” said Donald McLennan with Positively No. “If Salt Spring became a municipality that islands trust would be seriously undermined and underfunded and would have great difficulty in carrying through with it’s preserve and protect mandate.”
As for cost, the yes side also points to a study that shows taxes would go up $10 per resident if incorporated.
The no side says those costs are grossly underestimated.
“We’re very concerned about the cost of the province downloading all too many costs onto the shoulders of the Salt Spring taxpayer,” said McLennan.
Both sides are hoping for a heavy turnout which at mid-day the deputy elections officer said appeared to be happening.
Tonight the referendum results will be another reason to celebrate for those voting yes or no ending a contentious campaign that has waged through the community for months.
Watch the CHEK News website tonight for results.