The Cariboo Regional District is one step closer to amalgamating its economic development services into one, region-wide body following a narrow vote at the South Cariboo Rural Directors Caucus Meeting this month.
Directors Margo Wagner and Willow Macdonald voted Nov. 8 in support of a staff recommendation to merge the CRD’s economic development services – currently split into North Cariboo, Central Cariboo/Chilcotin and South Cariboo, with director Al Richmond voting against it. All three directors, however, agreed that a taxation cap should be implemented on the proposed new service.
Richmond expressed concerns about the taxation increases as well as the fact that directors in the South Cariboo could easily be outvoted, as they would then become three of 12 directors at the regional level.
“We have a function with three stakeholders, currently, that get to vote, but the moment it becomes a regional function, we are part of roughly 12 and we can be outvoted,” Richmond said. “I’m concerned because economic development requires no public assent, so we have to be careful about how we manage this one.”
Wagner said she understood Richmond’s concerns but the timing was right to be moving forward with the merger, cited as means of working more efficiently. “With everything we’ve gone through the past four years, with fires, floods and COVID and the lack of tourism, economic development has struggled,” she said.
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She noted many people moving to the Cariboo from the Lower Mainland and elsewhere have an “expectation” of economic development in their new communities, even if it means budget increases.
“Sometimes, unfortunately, we have to make some tough decisions and we sometimes have to do things that aren’t always that popular.”
Darron Campbell, manager of community services for the CRD, said the central and north rural caucuses shared similar concerns but ultimately supported the motion.
“All three rural caucuses spoke the same about losing control to the board as a rural caucus,” Campbell said. “But at the end of each conversation, they did all agree that they supported it going forward.”
The amalgamation must be reviewed by committees in all three regions before going back to the CRD board for final approval.