Aiming to turbo-charge Squamish's economy, municipal officials are considering a new model for economic development.
At council's Committee of the Whole meeting on Tuesday (Dec. 3), district staff presented a variety of economic development committee models. The municipality currently has a Economic Development Standing Committee, which is open to the public but comprised solely of councillors. District staff recommended a select committee structure, an advisory model with its authority set out in a terms of reference. Such a committee would be comprised of a council member and other appointed members.
Coun. Patricia Heintzman said she doesn't think such a change goes far enough.
“This is a vote on the status quo in my mind,” she said.
After defeating the motion 4-3 — with councillors Heintzman, Ron Sander, Bryan Raiser and Ted Prior voting against — Heintzman put forward a recommendation that staff explore an arms-length model, separating it from “bureaucratic processes.”
“I think we need to start pushing,” she said.
An outside organization would be more nimble and spontaneous, Heintzman said. It would draw upon community expertise, she added, noting the municipality would still set its budget and influence its direction.
“I can't see any reason why an arm's-length couldn't communicate effectively with the district,” Heintzman said.
With a population of 17,000, no Squamish organization can be truly arm's-length, warned Coun. Susan Chapelle, who voted in favour of the select committee. Municipal officials face upcoming budget cuts and Chapelle questioned how the district will pay for such a committee.
Economic development is a government function, with its success or failure falling on councillors' shoulders, said Coun. Doug Race, who also voted in favour of the select committee model. The municipality has directed staff to deal with economic development, he added.
“These are small steps and you have to take them one at a time,” Race said regarding committee changes.
Lawmakers directed staff to return to council with more details on an arm's-length organizations and possible bills attached to changes in the committee's function and structure.