With a little pomp, a little circumstance and many congratulatory handshakes, the Town of Gibsons 2022-2026 council was sworn in at their inaugural meeting at Gibsons Public Market Nov. 1.
Before the crowd of a few dozen people, including family, friends and politicians from other Coast local governments, the council swore to abide by rules related to conflict of interest, to carry their duties with integrity, to be accountable to their actions and decisions, to demonstrate leadership and collaboration and to perform their duties in accordance with the law.
Of the five members of council, only Coun. Christi Thompson was taking the oath for the first time. Coun. Annemarie De Andrade and Coun. David Croal are each in their second term and Coun. Stafford Lumley is in his third. Mayor Silas White has previously served as a councillor.
In his inaugural address, White alluded to the unpredictable times, saying “it may not be a good idea to make a lot of promises,” rather committing to being “transformative, innovative and positive.”
Noting the low voter turnout (38 per cent, compared to 44 per cent in 2018, 62 per cent in 2014, 59 per cent in 2011 and 46 per cent in 2008), White said he’s not surprised: “This past term, I found councils everywhere spending more and more time on inward microscopic matters and less on big strategic issues that affect people’s lives.”
Engaging residents, encouraging new voices and cutting down on “inward looking and in-camera meetings,” were among White’s proposed solutions.
Community discussions about the major issues affecting Gibsons, housing, BC Ferries, healthcare, water, White said he didn’t want to be limited to their limited local government authority – particularly in the case of climate change.
He also asked council to “focus on the big issues and big decisions and put its confidence and trust in staff to get the groundwork done.”
“I will expect and foster civil discourse. You can expect me to be civil, to listen and to problem solve,” White told the crowd. “As I said earlier, there is so much in this community to unite us. In the coming months, our council will be diving right into engaging the public in developing a vision and strategic plan and advancing that plan for every day forward in a way that has not been seen in the recent past.”
While much of the inaugural meeting is ceremonial, council did receive the report of official election results from chief elections officer Rebecca Anderson.
Anderson said in her report that municipal and regional staff may wish to collaborate on approaching the federal government about addresses on government-issued ID. Some IDs say people live in Gibsons, when they in fact live outside of municipal boundaries. One person this year showed up thinking they were eligible to vote in Gibsons when they in fact live outside of the municipality, Anderson told Coast Reporter.
“I am also aware of voters who live on the UBC Endowment Lands who thought they could vote for Vancouver Mayor, Councillors, School Trustees and Parks Board Directors, only to learn that they are not within the electoral area of Vancouver even though their address shows officially as Vancouver on their ID,” Anderson told Coast Reporter in an email. “It can be distressing for voters who have done their research regarding the candidates they want to vote for, only to learn that they cannot vote for those candidates and are deciding about an entirely different slate of candidates that they have not informed themselves about.
“I am sure this is happening at voting places across the province, when the address showing on people’s ID names a municipality that does not match the place where they are actually eligible to vote.”
Appointed to the Sunshine Coast Regional District board were White and Lumley. Croal was appointed deputy mayor until the end of 2023.
The first regular meeting of the new council is Nov. 15.