For twenty years, the Columbia Basin Trust (CBT) has provided proof that when a region receives a fair share of economic benefit and is given responsibility for decision-making on how best to use that benefit, tremendous things can happen.
Created in 1995 to support the Basin’s social, economic and environmental priorities, and funded by revenue from the Columbia River Treaty, the Trust has promoted self-sufficiency for present and future generations. But its real success has been driven by the constant input and interest of the people of this region, proving that the greatest wisdom sits with members of the community.
I’m reminded of the time before the 2008 stock market crash when the leadership of the CBT expressed an interest in investing more heavily in the market and selling off the dams, but the residents of the Basin forcefully said no. Fortunately, the original founders of the Trust had insisted that public input be mandated for all aspects of the Trust’s operations, and that requirement ensured that the wisdom of the people had to prevail. It would have been a sadly diminished Trust following the crash of 2008 if public input had not been hardwired into the mandate of the CBT.
The Columbia Basin Trust is a perfect example of what can be accomplished when local wisdom is at the core of decision-making. The Columbia Basin Trust’s people-driven model is an anomaly in British Columbia, as the provincial and federal governments become less and less concerned by or responsive to the wishes of its citizens.
It often seems that the people in power do not actually care about what you think. Your opinion about the decisions they make does not matter to them. They do not care how those decisions will affect you.
I am so thankful to the politicians and community members who were responsible for establishing the Columbia Basin Trust, and who laid out its vision and its mandate. The understanding that the Trust cannot proceed without the approval of Basin residents is a key component of its success. I only wish that our governments would operate under a similar mandate.
Norm Macdonald is the NDP MLA for Columbia River Revelstoke. He can be reached by phone at 1-866-870-4188 and by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.