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Island Municipalities, Restructure Studies and Referenda

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Legislative and Policy Framework

The Islands Trust is made up of twelve local trust committees and one island municipality, representing Bowen Island.

Island municipalities are a special form of municipality that recognize the Object of the Islands Trust and must consider this object when adopting bylaws or issuing permits or licences. It also submits its Official Community Plans to the Islands Trust for approval. Island municipalities contribute to the administrative costs of the Islands Trust through property taxes.

Islands Trust has a formal agreement with the Province defining roles for every step of municipal incorporation. Trust Council has a policy guiding how to assess costs and resources for incorporation studies and a policy for calculating municipal share of the Islands Trust budget.

When it comes to the issue of potential island incorporation within the Trust Area, the Islands Trust Council does not take a position for or against.

Islands Trust staff have prepared a briefing clarifying trustee and staff roles when a community in the Islands Trust area is considering or actively engaged in a local study of governance structure such as a municipal incorporation study.

Bowen Island & Incorporation

1999: Bowen Island Restructure Study and Incorporation Referendum - Passed (supported by 60% of voters). Bowen Island Municipality then incorporated as the first island municipality within the Islands Trust Area.

Since incorporation, the Bowen Island Municipality is represented on the Islands Trust Council by two Municipal Councillors, elected through a 'double-direct' system during regular local government elections.

1991: Bowen Island Incorporation Referendum failed.

Gabriola Island & Incorporation

2004 - Gabriola Incorporation Referendum failed (opposed by 87% of voters) (2004 Update of the Gabriola Island Local Governance Review).

Salt Spring Island & Incorporation

Sept. 9, 2017: Incorporation Referendum failed (opposed by 62% of voters). The following is a brief chronology of events that led up to the 2017 incorporation vote.

March 2017: The Minister ordered a municipal incorporation vote for Salt Spring Island electors.

Oct. 2016: A report from the Incorporation Study Committee to the Minister recommended that a referendum be held.

Sept. 2016 Trust Council approved a Transition Plan for how the Islands Trust would adapt in the first six months after a possible “Yes” vote.

2015: The Minister released an Islands Trust Impact Analysis and announced funding for an incorporation study.

2013: The community-formed Salt Spring Island Governance Study Committee recommended to the Minister that a full municipal incorporation study be initiated

2012: Salt Spring Island’s three locally-elected representatives (two local trustees and the electoral area director) wrote to the Minister requesting a governance study for Salt Spring Island. The Minister subsequently announced funding and staff to support the first phase of a study.

2008: Trust Council proposed the Province change the Islands Trust Act to increase from two to four, the number of trustees representing Salt Spring Island on both the Islands Trust Council and the local trust committee. The minister of the day was prepared to permit four trustees on the local trust committee, but not on Trust Council. In a related referendum, Salt Spring voters rejected the ministry's proposal to have four trustees on its local trust committee.

2002: Salt Spring Incorporation Referendum failed (opposed by 70% of voters) (2002 Salt Spring Island Restructure Study)


Occasionally island communities invite Islands Trust staff to discuss governance options at public meetings. Slides used at these presentations can be viewed here:

For more information, or to share your ideas about Islands Trust governance, please contact:

Russ Hotsenpiller
Chief Administrative Officer
(250) 405-5160

Page last updated: 27/03/20
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