A proposal for a baseline Sooke study that could involve faculty and graduate students from Royal Roads University (RRU) drew harsh criticism from a couple of Councillors at the recent Sooke Council meeting. Presented by Dr. Brian White, the request was that Sooke consider a Vital Signs report that would be a “complementary element to your official community plan” (OCP). The project received endorsement from Steve Grundy, a resident of Sooke and the vice president of Royal Roads.
A Vital Signs report, as introduced by Dr. White in his presentation “is designed to connect philanthropy to community needs and opportunities. The Vital Signs report is a an annual snapshot that measures the vitality of a community or region using a combination of citizen opinion, data, and curated secondary data. The choice of secondary data is informed by several frameworks including quality of life, determinants of health, and sustainable development.”
“A Sooke Community Profile,” he concluded, “[would present] the most recent data available on a range of demographic, social, cultural, economic, and environmental metrics [that] can be assembled from existing data sources and local knowledge keepers. Current studies conducted by the municipality on affordable housing could also be a part of the report.”
Before the project would start, the university would have to meet with the District staff to discuss expectations and outcomes. A preliminary proposal would be drafted for Sooke Council to consider. This primarily report would include several degrees of detail, allowing Council to determine the ultimate direction of the project.
The project would start in July and run through until April 2020. The bulk of the work would be done by RRU faculty and staff starting in July. Graduate students will get involved once they take the actual course in January. The project would be faculty-driven with students coming in during their January 2020 course to do some specific “fill-in work.” The funding would have to be worked out with staff and council, and with RRU, and there could possibly be some grant funding available. The bulk of the work would be done before the students get involved.
Councillor Ebony Logins didn’t like that the Vital Signs report looked at a smaller number of people and extrapolated assumptions over a much larger population. She was then quite critical of the value that university-driven projects add to a community.
“When you say it’s going to be useful to the community,” said Logins, “I’ve done my fair share of presentations in Quebec and Belize and Nanaimo and to the Seschelt First Nations in terms of adventure tourism and that sort of thing, but I know that each one of those was useless to those communities, and it was just something that we were doing as a university to get out into the world and to see what’s out there and … let our imagination work and see where we can push ourselves as students. So I know that the tourism reports you provide for us annually really haven’t provided any specific development in our policies, so how do you see this being different?”
Councillor Tony St-Pierre noted that available grants can be researched.
Councillor Jeff Bateman noted that this project would allow Sooke to access RRU resources and expertise from 25 different graduate students coming from 11 countries. This request, he clarified, was to prepare a fuller proposal. At this time, there is no obligation on the District of Sooke.
The CAO echoed Logins’ resistance, from from a different perspective, noting that staff is already stretched, and doing this means other things will get put on hold.
Sooke Mayor Maja Tait said that the initial project proposal would come from RRU, with the staff only putting together a final proposal for council’s consideration.
Councillor Megan McMath made the motion that Council direct staff to meet with Dr. White to provide information for a report on the development of a baseline report for the District of Sooke, for Council’s consideration. The motion was seconded by Councillor Tony St-Pierre.
Councillor Al Beddows added his voice to the opposition, saying that if staff is already stretched thin that they shouldn’t have more work added to their plates. He failed to see the value of the proposal.
Councillor McMath noted was that the bulk of the work would be done by the university. She added that the measurables provided in the final report would ultimately assist with future grant applications.
When the motion was finally put to a vote, Councillors Bateman, St-Pierre and McMath and Mayor Tait all supported it, with Councillors Logins and Beddows opposed. The motion carried.
An example of a Vital Signs report is available here.
RRU has provided research for Sooke in the past four years, including (but not limited to) the following:
- Master’s thesis focusing on tourism preconditions for Sooke published
- Master of Arts in Tourism students from Royal Roads present “Transforming Destinations: Sooke 2017”
The Councill meeting was attended by Mayor Maja Tait, and Councillors Al Beddows, Megan McMath, Tony St-Pierre, Ebony Logins, and Jeff Bateman. Councillor Brenda Parkinson was not able to attend.