Victoria city councillors are fighting a decision by the Greater Victoria Harbour Authority not to appoint their newest nominee to oversee the harbour authority.
Last week, the GVHA board told Coun. Shellie Gudgeon she lacked the skill set necessary to serve as one of 10 appointed directors, despite receiving unanimous endorsement from her fellow councillors.
“We’re running a harbour, so we want specific skills around cruise and tourism, terminals and transportation and the general marine sector and marinas,” said GVHA chair Bill Wellburn.
Several councillors publicly expressed concern over a 2011 bylaw change that allows the GHVA to accept or reject nominees to the board. Prior to the change, member agencies were able to appoint board members without being challenged.
“This is an unelected board declining the appointment of an elected official,” Gudgeon said. “This isn’t about personalities, this is about democracy.”
Coun. Pam Madoff, who currently represents Victoria on the GVHA board, was unavailable for comment.
The GVHA oversees federally owned land that includes Ogden Point, parts of the Inner Harbour and Fisherman’s Wharf, but has a unique structure that does not include direct accountability to an elected body.
The GVHA board is comprised of one director each from the City of Victoria, Township of Esquimalt, Esquimalt Nation, Songhees Nation, the Provincial Capital Commission, the Victoria/Esquimalt Harbour Society, Tourism Victoria, the Greater Victoria Chamber of Commerce and the Capital Regional District. Another four directors are appointed from the community at large.
Wellburn said the model works well to serve competing interests and municipalities are still able to challenge any decisions at quarterly general meetings.
“There’s not many places, although we live on the tip of an Island, where commerce is conducted between land and sea,” he said. “We are a business that I see as an economic engine for the region.”
The GVHA board is holding a closed-door meeting Friday to consider a motion from the City of Victoria that would once again allow individual agencies to have final say over their appointed board members.