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Sechelt’s population growth means more political clout

Sechelt’s population growth means more political clout

The District of Sechelt now qualifies to have a second director at the Sunshine Coast Regional District (SCRD) board table because its population has topped 10,000 residents.

Population figures released from the 2016 Canada Census on Feb. 8 show that the District of Sechelt grew faster than any other area in the SCRD, rising from 9,291 in 2011 to 10,216 in 2016 – a gain of 10 per cent.

In passing the 10,000 mark, Sechelt also gains another vote in financial matters. Under the weighted voting system, each SCRD Area is entitled to one vote per 2,000 population. Therefore, on matters that have weighted votes (such as the budget) Sechelt will now have six votes, while the Town of Gibsons has three, the rural areas have two votes each, and the Sechelt Indian Government District (SIGD) has one.

“Sechelt will indeed qualify for another seat at the RD table and an increase in the weighted vote with the new population figures,” confirmed Sechelt Mayor, Bruce Milne by email. “For non-weighted decisions Sechelt will now have two votes out of a reconfigured Board of nine persons.”

Milne noted that it will be some months before a new director is appointed, due to the process required by the province and the need to amend SCRD bylaws. “I expect this to be completed prior to December 2017 so that the new Board is in place for the annual election of the Board Chair and Vice-Chair and appointment of Committee Chairs,” said Milne.

The three municipalities (Gibsons, Sechelt and the SIGD) will now wield equal voting power to the rural areas on weighted votes: 10 votes to 10, although rural directors will still outnumber municipal directors five to four for other votes. (Rural directors are elected directly by voters for a four-year term; municipal directors are appointed by the municipal council, and terms of appointment vary.)

Viewed regionally, the upper portion of the Coast from Sechelt to Egmont will now have 11 weighted votes at the table, versus nine for the lower Coast (Port Mellon to Roberts Creek).

Sechelt expanded its boundaries in 1986, taking in Wilson Creek, Davis Bay, Selma Park, East Porpoise Bay, Sandy Hook, Tuwanek, West Porpoise Bay, and West Sechelt. A similar boundary extension for Gibsons, proposed in 2006, was defeated at the polls. Had it passed, the combined Gibsons population would still fall short of the 10,000 mark, though only by 80 people.

Overall, the Sunshine Coast’s population grew 4.7 per cent between 2011 and 2016, lagging the provincial growth rate of 5.6 per cent for BC as a whole. Two areas actually lost population during that time. The SIGD’s population dropped 15.8 per cent and Area A (Pender Harbour) saw a decline of two per cent.

Other areas saw modest gains. Area F (West Howe Sound) grew 1.4 per cent, Area B (Halfmoon Bay) 1.9 per cent, the Town of Gibsons 3.8 per cent, Area E (Elphinstone) 5.2 per cent and Area D (Roberts Creek) 5.5 per cent.

Donna McMahon

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