(edited version of a talk by Bruce Fleming-Smith given at the QBRA 2018 AGM)
There are 3 courses of action under consideration today regarding the future of the QBRA:
- new blood and elect an expanded board - hibernation
With the very arduous series of public meetings relating to our OCP Review and then the recent civic elections, many residents no doubt have a sense of exhaustion with ‘public process’. And many have remarked that the QBRA only really seems to become animated when there is some form of ‘burning local issue’.
In Brad Wylie’s little book, Qualicum Beach - A History - of the QBRA he said;
“A curious and interesting relationship exists between the Council and the Residents Association. It could be said that if the Council was doing a good job and everyone agreed that this was so, there would be no need for the Residents Association. Therefore the very existence of the Association is taken by Council to be a criticism of its performance.”
Recent years in fact have witnessed considerable questioning and grumbling as to whether the QBRA ‘wasn’t too political’.
So in just a few minutes I’ll try to shed a bit of light on two themes regarding the QBRA:
- public engagement - and
- a ‘politicized’ Residents Association.
First - some important background:
The QBRA was formed in 1971. It had a big focus on ‘beautification’ in the early years and it is very interesting to learn that a good deal of QB’s current character is owed to the efforts of early QBRA initiatives. The ‘tudor village theme’ - now prominently exemplified in both the Qualicum Foods Store and the Town Hall - originated in a ‘marketing campaign’ that resulted from the work and promotion of the QBRA’s Beautification Committee. The idea was to encourage a more unified aesthetic for the town, it’s shops, streets, and sidewalks. In 1971 the QBRA proposed planting trees on Memorial avenue. Many shops added mansard roofs, were spruced up with new paint, awnings, and ornamental lighting. Brown cedar strapping and timbered elements were added to many facades. Planters, many with wrought iron poles for hanging baskets were artfully sprinkled around the town.
Somewhat foreshadowing today’s focus on public engagement, also in 1971 the QBRA petitioned Council to hold a public meeting on sewers.
The Sewer Controversy dominated local news and affairs for some years during the 70’s in this area. The final decision to run a big submerged pipe along the beach from Qualicum to a treatment plant at French Creek was no ‘slam-dunk’. If you thought the QBRA taking a strong or politically controversial stance was a recent phenomena - as in post Clarion and Pheasant Glen - then you missed the heated rhetoric of the mid seventies on the sewer program.
Despite having been endorsed by Council and construction already started - in the little book on Qualicum’s history we learn that:
“Opposition mounted and in March 1976 the Qualicum Beach Residents Association and a number of concerned citizens sent telegrams to the Minister of Municipal Affairs protesting the construction of the sewer system.” A petition was also sent. It protested (in part) “an excessively costly sewer program for a village of seventeen hundred people being ruthlessly pressed by the Mayor and Council of the village.”
The following month 15 Qualicum Beach property owners hired a lawyer and filed a writ to stop the project in the Supreme Court of Canada. Council followed up with it’s own legal advise. Apparently the writ was later withdrawn.
So - the QBRA has an established history in calling for community consultation, not shirking controversy, and bringing about creative and constructive change.
And as an important adendum I’ll read part A of the QBRA’s official purpose (as defined under the Society Act):
a) To encourage and promote the residents to improve their respective local conditions on political, social, cultural, economic and environmental matters that affect the residents in the community of Qualicum Beach.
I posed at the outset that maybe the QBRA will choose to go into hibernation.
It can be argued that Community and Residents Associations like the QBRA are more crucial to a healthy local democratic process than ever. We live during times when community consultation and engagement are increasingly seen as essential parts of public, development, and political process. And any ‘doubters’ need only look to the Federal Appeal Court’s recent ruling on Trans Mountain. The precedent setting passage in that ruling can be reduced to four simple words; “failure to meaningfully consult”.
Many residents will point to our newly elected Mayor and Council and our ‘shiny new OCP’ and likely feel that all is well for the future for our town. While the OCP Review Process bordered on ‘overload’ in terms of public consultation there was a widespread feeling that ‘the result’ was a disappointment and some were left wondering whether the public engagement was all that meaningful. And, unfortunately our New OCP only
makes a commitment to maintaining “a high standard of public engagement” regarding future Full OCP reviews. No mentions of public consultation and engagement in the course of ‘on-going matters’.
However the residents of Qualicum Beach do have a very nice memento from the recent election - in the form of ‘campaign promises’.
Here are a few of the ‘promises’ from our four ‘New Councilors’:
One Councilor - “I will help stay the course to preserve....transparent and inclusive decision-making...”
Another will - “Engage with the community to ensure future projects are in the community’s best long term interest”
The third said - “Every citizen matters. Every voice should be heard.”
And the fourth New Councilor said - “I promise to collaborate with the Mayor, Council and residents to ensure the right choices are made.”
The New OCP includes a lot of good intentions and good policies. But it will not ensure a sufficient or appropriate level of public consultation and engagement in the affairs of our town. With luck, the campaign promises of our new Council will lay a foundation for on- going consultation, collaboration and engagement. But let’s not make naïve assumptions.
Therefore... I don’t believe it’s time for the QBRA to ‘kick back’. I think we have to ‘wake up and smell the coffee’. The QBRA has a history, a tradition, and a mandate for furthering the prospects of public engagement and consultation. The QBRA has a mandate to be vigilant for our resident’s local interests in matters political, social, cultural, economic, and environmental. All of these areas demand the attention of an engaged citizenry.
Thank you for the opportunity to share these thoughts with you. Bruce Fleming-Smith (QBRA Board Member 2018)