Monday, November 5, 2018

A Primer to Governance at the Metro Vancouver Regional District Board

One of the things that I noticed when talking with people at the door during the recent election campaign was that most folks had limited knowledge about how the Metro Vancouver Regional District functions, especially the governance structure. This makes sense as the regional district, with the exception of regional parks, doesn’t directly provide services to people in our region.

Unlike counties in the US, regional districts are not another level of government. Regional districts only have as much power as member municipalities give them. One of the more controversial services that a regional district provides, as per provincial law, is a regional growth strategy that dictates land-use at a macroscale. Even this requires the consensus of all member municipalities.

For historical reasons, the Metro Vancouver Regional District consists of the regional district itself, the Greater Vancouver Sewerage and Drainage District, the Greater Vancouver Water District, and the Metro Vancouver Housing Corporation. While they are different legal entities, they function like one unit.

Each municipal council in our regional appoints one or more of its council members to the Metro Vancouver board. It is based on a weighted voting system. For every 20,000 people in a municipality, the board member gets one vote. One board member can have a total of five votes. For every five votes, a new board member is appointed by their municipal council to the board. The following table shows the current number of votes and board members for each municipality in our region.

Community Total Board Members Total Votes
Vancouver 7 32
Surrey 6 26
Burnaby 3 12
Richmond 2 10
Coquitlam 2 7
Delta 2 6
Langley Township 2 6
Maple Ridge 1 5
North Vancouver District 1 5
New Westminster 1 4
North Vancouver City 1 3
Port Coquitlam 1 3
West Vancouver 1 3
Langley City 1 2
Port Moody 1 2
Anmore 1 1
Belcarra 1 1
Bowen Island 1 1
Electoral Area A 1 1
Lions Bay 1 1
Pitt Meadows 1 1
Tsawwassen First Nation 1 1
White Rock 1 1

Based on this weighted vote system, regional district board members appoint a chair and co-chair of the regional district. All matters at the board can be subject to this weighted voting system.

One of the unique features of regional districts is that they act as de facto municipalities outside of municipal borders. People outside of municipalities elect directors to regional district boards. In our region this includes people who live at UBC, the University Endowment Lands, Barnston Island, and sections of Howe Sound and up Indian Arm.

The regional district system in BC gives a forum for municipalities to come together for the mutual benefit of each other. Because regional district boards are not another level of government, the amount of finger pointing that stands in the way of getting things done is limited.

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