Those elected to Oak Bay council had pledged transparency and public engagement during the recent election. Four councillors confirmed these values when they voted at the meeting on April 20 to have the intended advisory planning group constituted as a commission, under the rules of the Local Government Act, rather than as a committee.
Now their commitment to transparency and public inclusion will be necessary in the implementation of the official community plan. They will be tested again as the membership of the Advisory Planning Commission (APC) is structured.
While the act clearly intends to encourage resident participation (two-thirds of APC members) and limits political influence by council and staff (none allowed), there remains ample room to frustrate the intent of the legislation.
For example, those who put their self- interest ahead of the public good need only persuade the selection committee of council that they would be suitable members. It is not a reasonable assumption that Oak Bay as a community would have its best interests served by APC members being developers, speculators, builders, architects or realtors, notwithstanding their residency.
However, this industry could be consulted as a potential source of information: they do not need to be commission members to provide their perspective and input.
To ensure this outcome even more forcefully, an effective selection process must be brought forward which taps a broad cross-section of the community’s seasoned and committed residents. This could be accomplished by spreading membership across neighbourhoods, interests and qualifications, with diversity along with a minimum residency period being objectives. The ambience of Oak Bay – its space, trees and gardens – must not be traded away.