The new Thompson-Nicola Regional District (TNRD) board has held its first meeting as well as a couple of orientation sessions and directors are getting to know each other.
Since half the board is new, it will likely take a month or two to get in full swing. The newness of the board is a good thing. While I respected the previous board for the willingness of directors to be vocal with their opinions and to thrash out some difficult issues, bringing new points of view to the table always helps.
Of the 26 directors, 13 weren’t in the room last term, and quite a few of those are new to politics. There are nine women and 17 men, a ratio that needs to be improved.
There’s another demographic on the board that I view as somewhat unfortunate—there’s a lot of white hair around the table. I’m in favour of white hair myself, and the older I get the more I become convinced that youth is overrated. Still, youth has its advantages.
The presence of white and grey hair in the boardroom has been a characteristic of the regional district board as long as I can remember. With age comes experience but with youth comes vitality and a willingness to try things that the rest of us have already tried but might be worth taking another crack at.
Regional districts were created to bring democracy closer to rural areas. Regional boards exist to help people. Policies and regulations are there to benefit, not to hinder and restrict. Challenging boundaries is essential to the job we do.
I’m not the greatest judge of people’s ages, but it’s safe to say there are no 20 or 30-year-olds on the board. There might be one or two in their 40s and there are a few in their 50s but the 60s and 70s are pretty clearly the dominant age bracket.
There are reasons for this, one being time. Those among us who are retired have the flexibility—in our calendars if not in our bones—to attend board meetings and committee meetings that mostly happen in the middle of the day. If a pressing matter comes up in one of our communities we don’t have to wait until the end of the work day or a weekend to go check it out.
Those on municipal councils face the same challenges and yet the demographic there tends to be younger and there’s a reason for that, too.
Some rural areas are very big geographically and very small in population in one electoral area only 90 people voted in this year’s civic election, yet the turnout was over 54 per cent. In several others, only a couple of hundred voted.
Small populations in vast areas will inevitably result in fewer people being able to get involved.
The other problem I see is that regional districts, including ours, remain a mystery to most people. They don’t know about the many services they provide for the taxes they collect. In a village, town or city, City Hall is just down the street. In a regional district, the offices are a considerable drive away. I venture to say a lot of TNRD taxpayers don’t know that its offices are in the Civic Building on the corner of Fifth Avenue and Victoria Street in Kamloops.
There are some exciting developments coming in the way the TNRD engages with residents and I think that will help get some younger people interested in being part of it.
Until then us old farts will hold the fort, and the presence of new faces this coming term will refresh our thinking.