“Collaboration, not competition” is a motto I embrace but seldom abide even as I am reminded of it more often now thanks to regular trips to the Sunshine Coast Regional District (SCRD) boardroom.
Since directors were sworn in about a year ago, my notes from SCRD meetings have been sprinkled with variations on the dictum. A cooperative and jocular atmosphere has taken hold at the boardroom, with banter that at times sways like a dinner party with old friends.
Whoops and cringey jokes aside, formal instantiations are shining through, too.
The language of collaboration has been formally knitted into the board’s recently-adopted strategic plan as a primary focus, committing directors to develop a regional organics diversion strategy and growth management plan. Behind the scenes, CAOs have been meeting regularly, including with government staff across the Jervis Inlet – also a new development. In September, directors and municipal councillors told us they acted as a united front when advocating for improved ferry services and other Sunshine Coast interests at the Union of B.C. Municipalities convention.
It’s been a year and evidently it’s been Kumbaya.
But oh my lord, how the crying could begin.
Last week, directors had a first taste of what’s to come with the 2020 budget.
There is a backlog of budget items that staff are working through, while directors must figure out a way to pay for major projects in waste and water. Among those are the long overdue and increasingly costly water meter installations for Sechelt and the Sechelt Indian Government District, a collaborative project if there ever was one. Assuming it passes, directors will likely have to unite to accomplish what the past board could not – convince the public that everyone on the Coast needs a water meter, even as the term “volumetric pricing” begins floating into the boardroom.
Big investments in recreation, staffing and asset management are also on the table, and then there’s libraries. For years directors have squabbled over library funding models. Last budget they adopted a stopgap solution, but this time, with an expired MOU as motivation, another opportunity to collaborate has emerged.
As last week’s preliminary budget talks wound to a close, board chair Lori Pratt commented that “the numbers are daunting.” And then thanked staff “for not bubble-wrapping” the facts.
Let’s see if the dinner party changes.