The Big LIE

Preamble – I’m not sure about other people, but, when I discover that I’ve either been LIED to, or had someone break an election promise, I lose trust in those who used the mistruths to manipulate my vote.

In the continued debate on local governance for Salt Spring, the questions surrounding the failure of the last referendum on incorporation, still hang in the air.

My experience after the first incorporation vote in 2002 was that many people who voted “No” changed their minds within a couple of years, having had time to reflect, and, to become more aware.

Today, I am hearing chatter that nothing has really changed in the past two years with respect to improving the fractionalized form of governance here, other than the various crises/challenges have gotten worse, not better.

However, the “Big LIE,” told over and over again during the incorporation debate, that the Trust would be significantly, and negatively, impacted, was the #1 reason which No voters expressed as their objection to incorporation.

While that was an effective campaign tactic, it was, nevertheless a LIE to the electorate, many of whom were relying upon the Positively No group for good advice.

When I first entered the political arena, I believed referendums on major issues were a great idea. By the time I left office three years later, I had come to the conclusion that was one of the stupidest ideas I’ve ever had.

My change of mind came about as a result of the realization that the complexity of a major issue is not comprehended by the masses. The typical member of the masses does not have enough time or interest to dive deeply into the difficult questions to make an educated decision. And please, don’t get me wrong, its not that they aren’t intelligent enough, its just that politics isn’t everyone’s forte or cup of tea. People tend to listen to what their more vocal friends say, and then follow suit. (I’m sure this opinion will be met with all sorts of caterwalling, however, try Googling “referendum terrible” and see what has been written about the failure of referendums and the manipulation of the masses, the most recent example which is touted is the Brexit referendum.)

The challenge with a referendum on a complicated political matter such as incorporation is the issue can become politicized and open to abuse of “information.” This was exactly the case in both the 2002 and 2017 referendums.

The proof of that was ironically provided by the Positively No group AFTER the election, when 76% of a poll of about 200 No voters, said their concern that the Islands Trust would be negatively impacted was their #1 reason for voting No. (Their 2nd and 3rd top reasons were directly related to their first.)

When I mentioned the “Big LIE” above, I will explain why it was a LIE, and not the truth.

If Salt Spring had incorporated, there would:

  1. have been no changes to the number of Salt Spring Trustees,
  2. have been no changes to the number of other Island Areas Trustees,
  3. have been a reduction in the amount of tax dollars Salt Spring currently provides to support Trust planning on other islands (read other taxpayers),
  4. have been a financial analysis conducted by Islands Trust Financial staff of that reduction, and,
  5. three options would have been presented to the 22 Trustees, of the affected 11 Island Trust Local Areas, at the next Trust Council budget meeting. (I say 22, because Bowen and Salt Spring Island Trustees would not be included in the decision making). Those options would be:
    1. Option A – Continue the same level of planning service to the 11 Island Areas, by increasing the level of tax in those areas by about $70/year per property.
    2. Option B – Reduce the planning budget by the amount of the reduction of the Salt Spring subsidy, thus reducing servicing.
    3. Option C – Reduce the budget by something between $0 and the amount of the Salt Spring subsidy and adjust the planning levels accordingly.

In other words, the absolute “worse case scenario” would have been a $70/year tax increase per property in the 11 areas. That’s a far cry from destruction.

It is also important to restate the budgetary decision would be made by the elected representatives of the 11 areas, not by Salt Spring or Bowen.

The ultimate question then arises – Would those 22 elected representatives be prepared to raise their electorate’s taxes by $70/year to keep the level of planning service that they now enjoy BECAUSE OF THE SALT SPRING SUBSIDY?

Let’s put that $70/year into perspective. The average $600,000 home on Mayne, Galiano or the Penders, pays about $3,000/year in taxes. $70 = a tax increase of less than 3%.

AND, remember, those same taxpayers are getting subsidized by Salt Spring taxpayers this year by how much? Oh yeah…$70.

The LIE that the Trust would be negatively impacted by the incorporation of Salt Spring, is the same LIE that was told to people on Bowen before they incorporated…and yet, here we are 20 years later and both Bowen and the Trust seem to be doing just fine.

I would love to have someone provide their argument/rationale as to how they believe the Trust would be either weakened or destroyed.  No harm in debating the issue…is there?



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