The committee in charge of advising the District of Squamish on economic development is looking to gain more teeth.
Struck by the current mayor, Rob Kirkham, the Economic Development Standing Committee consists of three members — councillors Susan Chapelle, Patricia Heintzman and Ted Prior — and Squamish residents who share advice at meetings. The committee’s three members are the only participants able to make motions that must then go before council for approval.
While the economic committee is a step toward community involvement, it’s meaningless without a mandate to be heard or decision making powers, Squamish resident Auli Parviainen said at the Tuesday (Oct. 2) committee meeting.
“There is no mandate to behind that voice right now,” Parviainen said.
Such a committee structure has no long-term continuity, she added, noting that down the road a new councillor with a different directive could change the committee’s course. Squamish resident Kerry Brown agreed.
“Economic development needs to be out of the political realm,” Brown said.
There are many different ways to set up municipal organizations with decision-making power, district chief administrative officer Corien Speaker said. They range from restructuring the committee to allow non-councillors to become members to participate to setting up an arm’s-length corporation.
But no matter the direction chosen, the organization must have a clear purpose to be successful, Speaker said.
“I think you also need to task it with some specific duties,” she noted.
Heintzman made a motion that the district create an economic development select committee or task force, appoint key sector representatives and members at large to the group and task the organization with specific goals. It was carried by councillors Chapelle and Prior. The recommendation will go before council on Tuesday (Oct. 16).
“It’s an interim step for further analysis,” she told The Chief.
Mayor Rob Kirkham told The Chief he is looking for feedback from the committee on its future direction.
“We aren’t there yet,” Kirkham said.