British Columbia Government Undermines Local Government

May 7 2012

Paves way for a municipality without residents

With proposed legislation changes, the BC government is poised to create instant Mountain Resort Municipalities, even in areas that do not have any residents or even a mountain resort. The Province would be able to appoint the mayor and municipal council, and to set an election date that is three or more years into the future (or never if the population remains too small).

The new Mountain Resort Municipality concept could be implemented anywhere in BC, but it appears to be designed and targeted towards the controversial Jumbo Glacier Resort proposal in the Jumbo Valley 55 km west of Invermere.

Gerry Wilkie, Regional District Director for the area adjacent to the proposed municipality, expresses deep concern, "In this scramble to enact legislation to facilitate the Jumbo real estate development, the provincial government demonstrates its intention to undermine the Local Government Act and to disenfranchise the public from the right to participation guaranteed under the Act.”

The mayor of Invermere, Gerry Taft, is speaking out about the prospect of an appointed council representing a population of zero. Invermere is the community closest to the proposed "municipality".

"The concept of a Mountain Resort Municipality designation for the Jumbo Valley is ridiculous," Taft says. "There are no residents, and even if the resort was built as proposed by the developer, there would not be a population large enough to have an election. It is clear the Mountain Resort Municipality without residents is not about providing municipal services, or even about governance- its only purpose is to avoid public process on land use zoning and rubber stamp the wishes of the developer."

The legislation is presently before the Provincial Legislature. If enacted, it gives the new Mountain Resort Municipalities the same powers and rights as other local governments that require democratic elections for their mandates. In the Jumbo situation, this would open the door for the Jumbo Municipality to get a seat and vote at the Regional District of East Kootenay board, or even borrow money from the Municipal Finance Authority for infrastructure projects that would otherwise be the responsibility of the resort developer.

"Developers who wish to re-zone land have to follow a process that includes public hearings and a final decision by officials who are accountable to the residents who elected them. This legislation would empower a minister to give developers a special status that bypasses the democratic process and undermines the ability of local citizens to control development. The ability of the proposed Jumbo Resort, and other potential developments, to bypass the land use process and get their own municipality status without residents is an affront to local communities. This is far beyond a bad idea. The loss of democracy is a slippery slope, even slipperier than some land speculators and receding glaciers," concluded Taft.
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Gerry Taft 250 341 1202
Gerry Wilkie 250 347 9841