Invermere mayor challenged on Jumbo stance

an Invermere resident questioned Invermere mayor Gerry Taft’s stance on the Jumbo municipality

The topics of Jumbo Glacier Resort and Jumbo Glacier Mountain Resort Municipality continue to generate discussion in the valley after an Invermere resident questioned Invermere mayor Gerry Taft’s stance on the municipality at the most recent Invermere council meeting.

Brandishing a copy of the October 1st Valley Echo and referencing its front page story about Mr. Taft’s motion at the recent Union of British Columbia Municipalities (UBCM) meeting criticizing municipalities without residents at the October 14th Invermere council meeting, audience member Mike Gagne pointedly asked Mr. Taft why he introduced such a motion.

“How does it benefit Invermere to take these (anti-Jumbo municipality) positions?” said Mr. Gagne.

Mr. Taft responded that the motion grew out of his frustration at what he sees as the discrepancy between the province saying it doesn’t have enough money to help fund municipal projects such as Invermere’s new multi-use centre and the province then giving $200,000 a year in grant money to Jumbo municipality, as well as his belief that the process of creating Jumbo municipality was wrong.

“When you fundamentally disagree with something, you should stand up for it,” said Mr. Taft.

“Whether or not you agree with having a ski resort up there, there’s no question in my mind that setting that up should follow the same process that other ski resorts in the East Kootenay have been through, with rezoning decisions made by elected officials at the regional district.”

Mr. Taft said that in making the motion at the UBCM meeting, he was simply doing what the majority of his constituents would support him doing on the Jumbo issue.

“I do believe I’m representing the majority of the people in the district on this. People come up to me all the time and say ‘thank you’,” he said, clarifying that his chief concern is Jumbo municipality and the processes behind its creation, rather than the planned Jumbo resort.

“My issue is around the municipality,” said Mr. Taft. “I’ve done everything I can do to raise awareness about how more than $1 million of public money is being spent to set up a municipality in order to circumvent the normal regional district zoning process that other ski areas in the East Kootenay go through.

“Invermere has more to gain from this project than any other town. These positions you take are not in the best interest of Invermere,” responded Mr. Gagne, adding that Mr. Taft’s moves could quite possibly end up hurting businesses here and that future efforts to, for instance, get Jumbo municipality to throw in funding for valley-wide projects will fall on deaf ears.

“I would hope that they (Jumbo governments officials) wouldn’t be so vindictive as to say you’ll never get any money ever, since you pissed us off on this one issue,” responded Mr. Taft, adding he feels speaking up on an issue you disagree with is a good way to get it dealt with.

“The squeaky wheel gets attention,” he said.

Councillor Greg Anderson said the motion presented at the UBCM started during an Invermere council — where not all councillors agreed with it, but a majority did — so it went on the Association of Kootenay and Boundary Local Goverment (AKBLG) meeting, where a majority again agreed with the motion, so it then went on the UBCM.

The motion followed due process, said Mr. Anderson, adding now that the UBCM has voted to take the matter to the province, it is finished as far as Invermere council is concerned.