Re: A Request to scuttle the September 9, 2017, Salt Spring Island Incorporation Referendum
No doubt you will endure many briefings as you move into the portfolio, some of them pending urgent attention. I am also aware that there are more than three months to wait until to September 9, the date set by your predecessor, for the Salt Spring Island “Incorporation Referendum” – this may disguise the urgency this matter has for us.
This referendum is about an important matter to islanders and it is unfolding on shaky ground. We, the people of SaltSpring, need some time to “detox” after years of being force-fed “incorporation facts” and other stuff badly contaminated with fiction. We need to wash out of our hair the half million dollars worth of propaganda dumped on us via smooth professional persuaders, ostensibly “helping” us “freely decide on our own” to deliver our society to yet another layer of bureaucrats and politicians for them to govern us, as if we are not already over governed.
Fearing that which they have hitherto thrown at us may not prove enough to swing the vote, and anxious to attach credibility to the process overall, “they” have planned a row of grand finale shows to be performed yackety-yak style by two teams of players who will perform on stage, in front of the people, under the firm control of two ostensibly entirely unemotional maestros, yearning to enable us, the audience, decide freely, on our own, whether the villain or the victim in the opera libretto is the misunderstood benevolent character.
But let’s look at how we have arrived where we are. The performance of the Trust and its stubborn resistance to change, has fueled resentment and posed a need for relief. But the Trust was “imposed” upon us without an exit. The imposition of the Trust, in effect removed our right to local governance, if not of the whole, at least to a large extent. This aspect of the imposition of the Trust was obscured then because if it was noticed, the people would resist and likely foil the imposition of the Trust. But the people did not notice what was happening, the Trust was imposed and the right of the people to govern themselves at the local level was thoroughly hollowed
After the Trust was in place, neither incorporation was meaningfully possible, nor was a return to the system of governance we had before. We were willy nilly saddled with the Trust.
The Trust was the wrong instrument for the purpose for which was made it was made, it was overkill and has since morphed into over-anachronism. This because of the nature of the Trust; and because it attracted to its ranks “saviours and true believers”; and because power corrupts; and because idle hands, the result of excess capacity, inherent to having a sledgehammer in a situation calling for a fly swatter, become the Devil’s tools; because of these and some other causes, the Trust has evolved in ways frowned upon by Democracy.
We were told that a lame incorporation was the only option we have to moderate a little the pain from the Trust. Many of us, thankful for small mercies, sought refuge in incorporation. The movement snowballed as Trust arrogance kept on alienating people.
Eventually buckets of money were spent on professional persuaders to tell us smoothly, inconspicuously, the “facts” of the matter. They told us that if we incorporate we would lose nothing but would gain freedom from the colonial rule by the Trust; and that we will be awash with money flowing our way from the senior governments. In parallel, they softened the Trust lovers with equally “learned” assurances that SSI incorporation will not hurt the Trust – it will only be a temporary nuisance, they said. Do not worry be happy and vote for incorporation they told everyone. This done they are now poised to take us through the last stretch of the course by tightly controlled, but billed as entirely impartial debates to deliver us into incorporation bliss.
They drove many of us to illusions of escaping the Trust and obstructed consideration of the causes underlining the pursuit of separation, without canvassing the possibility or reconciliation of the differences between the Trust and us. These problems have been fully sheltered from discussion, lest they contaminate the purity of the incorporation propaganda.
They would not discuss whether restructuring the Trust to make it amenable to the needs of our society were feasible or meritorious. It has been as if somehow it was conclusively determined that the Trust is either perfect or beyond repair but entirely unshakable. These general beliefs were taken advantage of by the Incorporation affocionados to boost the perception that incorporation was the sole option.
I believe the prevailing resentement for the Trust is not so much against the Trust as a concept, but against the Trust as it has morphed and conducts itself. If we restructure the Trust into a meritorious public body, resentment and distrust would yield to acceptance.
Of course, I am not certain we can reform the Trust, surely I have doubts that we can do that but still I believe that we can try to do it. I am certain that the Trust would never reform by itself, I believe that the Trust can only be reformed from the outside. I feel confident that changing the Trust is a realistic option that we should pursue, for without trying that, it would be imprudent to look at anything else, more so to submit our society to irreversible incorporation. Let’s not cut our nose to spite our face.
Bickering about Trust-o-cracy v. Mayor-o-cracy PLUS Trust-o-cracy, as they are poised to make us do, would dissipate our energies and tax our resources while leaving intact the reasons for our pain. The possibility of a misguided referendum return cannot be dismissed given the “education” they have already subjected us to and which has been smoothly disseminated for effective abortion. We need clear out our minds, but “they” are prepared to overdose us with “information”. What “they” have in store for us is conducive to “manufacturing consent” for incorporation by controling the last lap of the course to referendum.
It would be prudent to claim our democratic right to set ourselves the agenda for our society. We should apply our energies to identifying and exposing the reasons underlying the extensive public dissatisfactions with the status quo – that is what democracy exists for. We need to come to terms with the causes of the public resentment for the Trusts and to marshal the forces of a democratically governed society to make things right. For with a poor diagnosis the cure can be worse than the disease. Barking up the wrong tree as we may be mislead to do, bad as it is, is made much worse by the reality that we will not free ourselves from rule by the Trust. We will be left with all that we dislike in the Trust intact, to hurt us as it did in the past. Incorporation would keep us tethered to the Trust forever.
There was a movement afoot advancing the option I suggest we consider. It flourished in the early part of the decade but it met strong reaction from the topBrass of the Trust. The reaction drove many people to resign in the belief that there is no escape from the Trust, other than rushing into “incorporation”. Indeed, there are signs of it surfacing again.
I do not want to go over what “they”, the Trust, have done to us, if avoidable – that is why I write about and pray for what I call horse-sense, to wit for Democracy. We must calm down, cleanse the propaganda out of our heads and consider ideas people generate for delivering ourselves from the Trust we know and despise, to a new Trust designed to address our needs. Doing that would spare us the fate of been driven to systematically urbanize our island, our place under the Sun and the Rain where we came refugees from urbanism.
My suggestion is we proceed with a Zero Base consideration of the Islands Trust, as we approach the half century mark of enduring it after it was imposed upon us in 1974. It must be “people driven” and must be done entirely in the open, like democracy demands, like parliaments and courts of justice operate. Let us see who would oppose this and hear them explain why.
I do believe that we can restructure the Trust if we put our collective minds to it. We could easily provide for inclusion of the “protect and preserve” calling of the Trust, indeed I think we would not want it any other way. But there are other aspects of living important to us and the future of society which we can include in the system of local government we want for ourselves and future generations of Islanders. This and more we can do and, of course, more ideas would pop up for us to consider.
What we must not do is to hobble the society with something bad, in our rush to escape the Trust as it now stands.
Tom Varzeliotis, Man about Booth Canal