Editorial: To debate or not to debate

There is a fairly strong sentiment running through the Invermere community at the moment...

There is a fairly strong sentiment running through the Invermere community at the moment that the District of Invermere council has made a woeful error in judgement. The criticism levelled at council is in reaction to a particular instance whereby the mayor and councillors were accused of wasting precious time debating Bill 41 — a new piece of provincial legislation that, if passed, will an allow an area with no residents or economic activity (yes, pertaining to Jumbo, the Province later confirmed) to incorporate as a mountain resort municipality with an appointed council — during a district council meeting earlier in May.

That officials at the municipal level chose to take it upon themselves to debate decisions made by the provincial government has some locals shaking their heads in disbelief. Not only did they waste the time of those attending the meeting, the argument goes, but that time could — and should — have been better spent devoted to local matters under council’s control. Yet, 86 mayors at the first-ever BC Mayors’ Caucus held recently in Penticton have taken it upon themselves to demand a say in the provincial government’s decision-making process, because as it stands, municipalities must bear the costs of services the Province shrugs off without any consultation, and the mayors want to put the message out that their residents are already over-burdened with municipal taxes as it is.

Interesting to note that, rather than referring to the “levels” of government, the mayors instead agreed to call them the “orders” of government — “because we didn’t like the term ‘levels’ of government… we should all be on the same page,” Village of Canal Flats mayor Ute Juras told The Valley Echo. Albeit the mayors’ main gripe is financial while that of DOI mayors and councillors has to do with public process and land management, the overarching idea is the same — that levels, or orders, of governments need to communicate with each other in order to achieve the best possible outcome for communities.

As stated in the BC Mayors’ Caucus official press release: “As the front lines of government, it is at the community level that changes in public policy, and their resulting cost implications, are felt the most.  We must be partners in those decisions.”

I daresay if other communities were faced with the prospect of the Resort Municipality of Jumbo and its appointed council as a future neighbour, their councils would take time to publicly debate what it could mean for the future of their own residents — especially if that new municipality was going to affect their infrastructure. But, for now, Invermere is uniquely positioned in a new situation, one that absolutely merits debate from all orders of government.