Wednesday, June 12, 2024
June 12, 2024

Draft changes to Policy Statement going public

The Islands Trust has signalled it will soon be discussing its first meaningful update to its Policy Statement in 30 years — using an informal meeting structure it authorized for itself only last month. 

The Trust’s Executive Committee (EC) have directed staff to arrange the first-ever Islands Trust Council “Committee of the Whole” (COW) meeting in May, where they plan to receive the new draft of the Policy Statement — and “discuss the process by which it will be considered,” according to a resolution passed Wednesday, April 17, after which the EC will hold a special meeting “for consideration of next steps.” 

And if it sounds a little like they won’t be deciding anything, that’s by design, according to trustees; the new COW meeting structure was approved by Trust Council in March in part to avoid an expectation of action. 

As the name suggests, the COW includes all trustees in its membership; it’s designed to allow a less formal structure for discussing complex issues — think budgets, policy development or advocacy — without being constrained by rigid meeting procedures.  

Decision-making is strictly off-limits at COW meetings, according to staff and trustees, who believe rolling out the first discussions of the Policy Statement in such a meeting will help alleviate any concerns that the proposed changes to that document will be approved without public feedback.  

And observers shouldn’t expect trustees to stake out positions quickly either, according to EC chair and Thetis Island trustee Peter Luckham. 

“There are some trustees that are not going to want to formulate an opinion before they’ve heard from their community,” said Luckham. “They may love [the revisions], but they are going to want to hear from their communities before they weigh in too much.” 

Luckham said he felt perhaps the goal should be for trustees to leave the COW meeting with enough understanding of the amendments to be able to represent and discuss them back in their Local Trust Areas. 

“So that indeed, when trustees do go out to their communities, they’re able to have that conversation in a good way,” said Luckham. 

An update to the Policy Statement — to revise the guiding document to address issues such as the climate crisis, growing housing needs and the Trust’s commitment to reconciliation with local First Nations — has been in planning since at least 2019. In 2021, trustees hit pause on the process after an agenda posted in advance of a meeting included a proposed draft — prompting backlash and a petition over concerns the Islands Trust was moving forward without sufficient public input.  

The new COW meetings aren’t exempt from open meetings requirements, so public notices are still expected — and that means the draft revisions to the Policy Statement will again be published, likely several days before the meeting takes place. But trustees said they felt this time, islanders will feel heard before the process advances. 

“Committee of the Whole is where the ideas and thoughts are articulated,” said Luckham. “The role of the Executive Committee is to ‘have its ears on,’ and listen really closely.”

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