EDITORIAL: Taxation without representation

The way the Island Corridor Foundation is structured, the RDN rep can't share what's happening

They would not have stood for this in Boston, circa 1770. Taxation without representation is unacceptable in a democracy. We’re fairly certain most would agree with that sentiment.

The Island Corridor Foundation (ICF) does not directly collect taxes (thank goodness). It does, however, receive tax dollars from the Regional District of Nanaimo (RDN) and its member communities. Sometimes that’s in the form of fees, like the ridiculous amount of money the ICF collects from towns and cities so people can drive on roads that cross the ICF’s defunct, going-nowhere rail line.

The RDN has also committed about $1 million of taxpayer money to the ICF for the re-start of passenger rail service on the Island.

So, as one of the supposed partners in this pipe-dream re-start, the RDN gets a seat on the ICF board. Nanaimo Mayor Bill McKay is the RDN’s guy at the ICF.

Municipal councils and boards appoint liaisons to organizations all the time. These reps report back to council — and the general public — with news of what these organizations are doing. Often, municipalities provide financial support to these groups. In essence, these liaisons are watch-dogging the public purse.

This is what happens in the normal world of governance. The RDN-ICF relationship is anything but normal.

McKay is not only the mayor of Nanaimo, an RDN director and the RDN’s rep on the ICF board, he’s the chair of the ICF board. That puts him in a position to learn much about the ICF’s inner workings. Great, he can share that with the RDN board and all of us. Not so fast.

As new RDN Chair Bill Veenhof explains, the structure of the ICF “prevents transparent dialogue. The way they have structured themselves, he (McKay) can’t talk about the stuff he knows about. I sympathize with Bill McKay because he’s between a rock and hard place, but we (the RDN) have no clear window into the activities of the ICF.”

That’s taxation without representation.

Is there anyone — Veenhof? mayors Marc Lefebvre and Teunis Westbroek? provincial Minister Peter Fassbender — who will finally put a foot down and demand transparency from the ICF?

We have a suggestion for a starting point in the battle to demand transparency from the ICF. Management and administration of the foundation’s operations are governed by contracts that expire May 30. There should be a public request for proposals or some public tendering process for this service, no?

— Editorial by John Harding

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