Pointing fingers is easy.
What’s not easy is governing the vast area of the Regional District of Kootenay Boundary (RDKB). Backing communities from Beaver Valley to Big White takes practice, parlay and perspective, says regional leader and Area C (Christina Lake) Director Grace McGregor.
The Trail Times talked with the three-term board chair following the release of the RDKB’s governance and organizational review – in all, 53 recommendations for change were made by consultants from Realize Strategies Co-operative.
McGregor emphasized that for her, the report paints a big picture. It’s not about picking apart local government that oversees five unincorporated areas and certain core services to eight municipalities within.
“What I like about the report is the fact that this gives the Regional District of Kootenay Boundary an opportunity to be better than they are,” she began. “These are huge conversations to be had. I think we are a good regional district, but this will make us even better.”
Some of the recommendations have already been addressed, or are in the process of being worked on, McGregor continued.
“So you have to take a report with a little grain of salt, but you also have to learn from it,” she added. “So that’s the opportunity I want, to learn from it. And we are already putting together some things, such as doing a better job at strategic planning, for instance.”
Timing is everything, the board has until March to finish this year’s budget, McGregor pointed out.
So the 13-member panel hasn’t begun to peel back the report’s many layers, but it has moved ahead with one suggestion that focuses on the current business climate – the need for better IT (information technology) support.
The report does take into account “significant resource limitations,” but recommends the need for an Information Management Strategy and another IT employee to “gain control of IT services.”
“Their identification for another tech person is really important to the RDKB,” she explained, mentioning a dedicated communications position was also recommended. “We are going to have different conversations than we’ve had before, but once again understanding that times have changed, you don’t do business the same as you used to do business,” McGregor clarified. “Having said that, of course, those are budget issues so that has been a big part of the conversation. And right now, our priorities are budgetary.”
In the meantime, the Policy, Executive and Personnel Committee has been wading through the 34-page document identifying key highlights that cover governance accountabilities ranging from legislative framework, roles and responsibilities and rules of engagement to mandated services, human resource management and internal/external communications.
“The other thing that is interesting with this review, is that very few regional districts do them,” McGregor said. “I find that really fascinating. And I think these shouldn’t be limited to regional districts, I think every municipality out there should be doing it,” she added. “It talks about communication with one another and that is so important in what we do. So we want to not only get better in our technology and making sure we are up to speed on that, but to make sure we are communicating really well with all of our communities out there.”
There was another takeaway, however.
“At the end of the day, people still don’t understand regional districts,” she shared. “It took me a couple of years in this job to really know how we do things and why it differs from municipalities – and when you have boards that change, there’s a challenge there as well.”
McGregor was referring to points under the organization performance section which recommends extending regional board member appointments to three years rather than one, and delegating particular services to committees for better political scrutiny. Additionally, the consultants state: “there is minimal understanding of the RDKB and its role; there is a necessity to improve the main source of information for the public – the RDKB website; and there is growing concern with the current methods and mechanisms used for external communication.”
“We talk a lot about being steady in our messaging, making sure we give the directors the tools they need to go out and talk to their constituents, whether it be a municipality or electoral area,” she <sp