Regional districts: representative democracy

How are regional districts supposed to function, and what is the role of regional directors?

Regional districts, municipalities and the Islands Trust were created by the provincial government, and exist mainly under the Local Government Act and the Community Charter.

The provincial “Primer on Regional Districts in British Columbia” ( explains some of the fundamental principles that underlie regional districts, including:

  • Regional districts are federations of municipalities and electoral areas. As such, they represent a balancing of two contending needs for accountability – accountability to the municipal members and accountability to the public.
  • representation for electoral areas comes from directly elected directors
  • Accountability to citizens is achieved at the general local government elections but also through on-going opportunities for the public to be involved.
  • the board is a forum for inter-municipal cooperation and not a separate government
  • Regional districts are for the most part voluntary organizations .... they only provide the services that their members or their residents agree they should provide.
  • Regional districts are for the most part consensual organizations ... they only do what their municipal members and the public agree they should do.
  • extensive procedures are set out in the Local Government Act for obtaining consent of the member municipalities and, in the case of rural areas, elector assent, whether in the form of referendum, petitions or counter-petition
  • Each regional district provides services appropriate to its circumstances.
  • regional districts require a close matching between the benefits and costs of services. The intent is that residents ‘pay for what they get’”.

Regional districts are a form of “representative democracy” founded on the principle of elected officials representing a group of people (as are most Western-style democracies).

In a representative democracy, the people vote for representatives, who then vote on policy initiatives. The foundation of representation is that the elected representative identifies the will of the majority of their constituents. If the desires of the community differ from their own personal view, they ought to put aside their own interests to advance those of the community as a whole (i.e. listening more than telling).

In our case, we elect a representative to sit as a director on the PRRD board. As our representative, for any major issue, he/she is supposed to identify and advance (i.e. represent) the will of the people.

I would be interested to hear other perspectives - please feel free to comment below.