RDN Board looking to create staff position as First Nations liaison

Derek Kilbourn

Sounder News

Wednesday, February 25 2015

While the Regional District of Nanaimo Board (RDN) members seem to have consensus that the RDN needs a person assigned to be the liaison between the RDN and First Nations governments, there is some disagreement about how that position is to be created.

Up until now, an RDN staff person in the long-term planning office has also been the de facto liaison with First Nations for the RDN. 

At the RDN’s Committee of the Whole meeting held on February 10, Paul Thorkelsson, the RDN’s Chief Administrative Officer, said that work was being done “off the desk,” in addition to (and sometimes in place of) the duties of the long-term planning.

Rather than continuing to try and split the position between the long-range planning department and a First Nations liaison position, Thorkelsson suggested there be temporary part-time liaison position created for the 2015 budget year and then fund a full-time position starting with the 2016 budget.

Doing so, he said, would have no impact on the current proposed 2015 budget, as there had already been funding found within the current budget for such a temporary position.

Diane Brennan (City of Nanaimo Director) asked if the Board members decided they were interested in having a full-time First Nations liaison created, and how would that be funded.

Thorkellsson said, “You are asking me questions we haven’t looked at - quite possibly through regional administration so everyone is funding it, but I wouldn’t want to give a direct response without a chance to look at it.”

Howard Houle, Director for Area B (Gabriola Mudge and DeCourcy Islands) asked what a part-time position might cost. He was told it would be approximately $50,000 to support the half-time dedication. 

Thorkellsson said, “We’ve worked that into our [2015] budget and could potentially establish a full-time position that starts later in the year with the understanding that it would come in 2016.”

He clarified that he was not sure if there is enough work for a full-time position in just RDN-First Nations relations.

“So there may be an opportunity to create a position that adds other duties to create another position. If the Board is interested we can move forward.”

Jerry Hong (City of Nanaimo Director) said he believed it was important to have a First Nations liaison, “but I’m not interested in more staff...until we get our budget under control I’m not interested in adding more staff. Being directors, I think it is our job to interact with First Nations, rather than having staff do it for us.”

Houle made a motion that “staff be directed to undertake the establishment of a half-time position focused on First Nations relationships and issues, and intergovernmental affairs.” The motion passed.