North Cowichan council abuses democratic process with RCMP station AAP
Democracy in local government is under assault yet again by our North Cowichan council. The use of the Alternative Approval Process (AAP) to get public approval for the new police station construction illustrates how council bypasses the real referendum process to implement its plans without real public input. Everyone on council knows that virtually no one in the public understands the AAP. The AAP has become council’s favorite tool in the tool box to hood-wink the public.
Local governments in general, have succeeded in stripping the public from decision making. At one time local elections were held every two years, now they are every four years. At one time all major capital expenditures like a police station had to go to referendum, now they don’t. When the AAP was first initiated, only five per cent of the public had to object, now it is 10 per cent of the public. All of these things occurred, not for the benefit of the public, but for the benefit of the self-serving councillors.
The AAP, in the past, has been used for both discretionary wants of council and true municipal needs. In 2011, just months before the MNC civic elections, the AAP was used to get three projects passed by council even though they could easily been put to referendum, in the civic election, in a matter of less than three months. The three projects were: new dikes along Beverly and the TCH, an expansion to the muni hall, and the purchase of the curling club. One has to question the need for a muni hall expansion and a curling club without the use of a referendum; yet these two projects passed due to the public’s unawareness that they had been sneaked through using the AAP.
Perhaps the police station should go ahead, however a referendum should be held so that more of the public understand why it is required and how much your taxes will go up to fund it. The main reason cited for not using the referendum is the cost. I would like to point out that our council has no concept of proportionality. They balk at the additional cost of $58K for a referendum over the AAP option, but they do not think spending all of that money studying the muni forest reserve to be prohibitive. The forest reserve contributes virtually no cash benefit to the muni, yet council is prepared to spend untold amounts of our taxes on studies for the forest reserve. The police station will cost $40 million and the muni does not want to spend $58K for public input. Simply incredible!