Your need-to-know lesson in AAP 101

With apologies to those passionate, community-minded citizens who have fought against a few in the recent past, and know too well what they are, I will attempt to explain an alternate approval process.

Not to worry, I promise to keep the political gobbledy-gook lingo to a bare minimum.  So, please keep reading, dear taxpayer. This is important.

The AAP has been in the news a lot lately. Two editorials, an opinion piece, numerous articles, letters, and full page ads have touched on the controversy surrounding this municipal procedure.  However, none of them actually explained what the heck an AAP is. During a recent discussion about AAP’s at a CVRD meeting, one director said “I think people understand it very well.”

Really? Maybe it’s just me but I think it’s closer to the truth to say possibly 80% of the John and Jane Doe’s of 123 Anywhere St. in Cowichan have no idea what this is. Neither did I until two years ago. I only found out due to a little altercation about a misplaced garbage site.

Here in a nutshell, is a very simplified version of the AAP: Let’s say local politicians need money or approval for something (street lights, fire trucks, tourism, swimming pool, ECO Depot). They put a notice in the papers (large and worded in legalese). If you don’t agree with their idea. you have approximately one month to get an “Electoral Response Form” from the CVRD office in Duncan, or print one off their website (cvrd.bc.ca), fill it out correctly and mail it or drop it off to the CVRD.  If less than 10% of affected taxpayers send in a form, the idea is approved and, if applicable, more of your money will be taken through property taxes to pay for it. The amount involved will be included in the AAP notice — so much per $100,000 assessed value. And there you have it, it’s that simple.

Except it isn’t, hence all the controversy. Since 2002 there have been 47 AAPs. Of these, six have been defeated by citizens voting against them.

Do all AAP’s raise your taxes? No. Do all AAP’s affect everyone in the entire CVRD?  No, most are specific to certain areas or even certain neighbourhoods.  Do AAP’s resemble the now illegal “negative billing” technique? Yes. Is the CVRD obligated to use the AAP? Yes, it’s either that or a referendum vote.  Unlike regular voting which is anonymous, you must include your name and address on the Electoral Response Form. Is your information confidential? Absolutely.

Can the CVRD make changes to make it easier for taxpayers to understand and participate in? Of course they can. Will they? Maybe. Hopefully.

I’m not an expert on municipal or regional affairs, just a busy working parent like most of you reading this.

The reality is, unless you have a problem with local government you tend to not pay attention to what’s going on. You should.

Ask 10 people you know what an alternate approval process is.  If they give you a puzzled look and ask “alternative processed what?” please show them this letter. Then, in the future keep an eye on the local papers for large, fancy, outlined notices that start with the heading “Notice to electoral area ( _ ) of an alternate approval .....”

If they apply to you and you aren’t in favour get a response form and exercise your democratic right.

Barane McCartney is a Shawnigan Lake resident.

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