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Kitimat’s example shows councils can listen to what public tells them on major projects

FRIDAY MORNING EDITORIAL — This is as much an update as it is an editorial. We reported and commented on a plebiscite in Kitimat a couple of weeks ago on the Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline.

KitimatThe April 12 plebiscite results showed a majority (58.4 per cent) of Kitimat residents oppose the pipeline. Our question at the time was whether this plebiscite provided lessons for a possible plebiscite on the Ajax mine proposal and our conclusion was that it did.

Whether or not you support Ajax, a possible plebiscite on the matter is of interest. We noted, for example, that the District of Kitimat council had taken a neutral stance on the pipeline much in the same way Kamloops council has declined to take a position on Ajax.

However, while no interest has been expressed by Kamloops council in putting a question on Ajax to a public vote, Kitimat council put the pipeline to a non-binding plebiscite.

On Tuesday of this week, the Kitimat council decided to follow the wishes of its constituents, voting 4-1 to formally oppose the Northern Gateway pipeline. Two councillors were absent due to illness, and the one councillor who voted against the motion felt the council should stay neutral because the municipality had no authority on the issue.

That, of course, is the same situation as Kamloops council faces on Ajax, a fact councillors have made certain to point out in various discussions.

The motion by Kitimat council said this: “That the Mayor and Council support the results of the April 12 plebiscite by adopting a position of being opposed to the Enbridge Northern Gateway project.”

Such a process has benefits for the Kamloops community as well as council. As it is, council is forced to guess what most Kamloops citizens want. A plebiscite would answer the question. The fact senior governments could ignore a plebiscite result makes it no less valid a process.

There’s danger in a plebiscite for either side. Those who oppose Ajax might find, via a plebiscite, that the majority actually supports the project. Those who support it would find their case for approval eroded should a plebiscite result in a ‘no’ vote and council then falls in line.

But a plebiscite should be nothing to fear. It is a truly democratic way to determine what the Kamloops community wants.

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About Mel Rothenburger (6980 Articles)
ArmchairMayor.ca is a forum about Kamloops and the world. It has more than one million views. Mel Rothenburger is the former Editor of The Daily News in Kamloops, B.C. (retiring in 2012), and past mayor of Kamloops (1999-2005). At ArmchairMayor.ca he is the publisher, editor, news editor, city editor, reporter, webmaster, and just about anything else you can think of. He is grateful for the contributions of several local columnists. This blog doesn't require a subscription but gratefully accepts donations to help defray costs.

4 Comments on Kitimat’s example shows councils can listen to what public tells them on major projects

  1. “But a plebiscite should be nothing to fear. It is a truly democratic way to determine what the Kamloops community wants.” Remeber the” water meter” referendum?…Kamloops community didn’t want them..but look what happened…we got them..so much for the truly democratic way!

    • Mel Rothenburger // May 2, 2014 at 9:08 PM // Reply

      Well, at least the council of the day stuck by the people’s decision. The issue should have been put to a second referendum when a later council decided it wanted meters.

  2. Sean McGuinness // April 25, 2014 at 11:32 AM // Reply

    I agree with this editorial. A referendum on the issue would cast some light on what support there is for the mine. I also think the question should be put to city councillors as to whether they would support the mine if it receives a favourable enviromental review. I bet they’re not willing to answer that question either.

  3. Thanks Mel,

    Now if only we can plant that idea into some of the thick skulled council. At least with a vote, we know exactly what the city wants.

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