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Aug 28 2011

Local Government – staying within the law

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Almost three years ago, Lumby Council undertook the pursuit of a Provincial prison for Lumby. Without elected mandate they began in-camera meetings and secret discussions even though a prison held no place within the Official Community Plan (OCP). What we learned later is that Council can, by legislated authority, discuss, plan and negotiate anything in secret. Their only obligation before implementation is to consult, but there again – Council is not obliged to accept the result of consultation. In fact, a Local Council can draft secret resolutions to impose vastly unpopular agendas (do whatever they want) as long as Council considers it beneficial’ or ‘significant’ to the community. Wow! Who would have thought such a thing possible?

The corporate nature of municipal government  –  Part 2

The actions of Lumby Council are well documented and the huge gap between citizen’s expectations and what Council delivered was more than confusing. Lumby Council dismissed the referendum outcome and opted for a prison in spite of the vote tally leaving citizens wondering what happened to Council’s professed transparency and accountability.

Information from Council minutes, News articles, letters to the paper, correspondence from BC Ministers, transcripts of meetings, e-mails, hearsay and gossip that fueled the fire of conflict; were sent to the RCMP for investigation. The RCMP conducted an in-depth analysis on the facts, theories and allegations and for brevity, I have summarized the RCMP advice:

Lumby Council received presentations during regular council meetings. A town meeting was held. An official referendum under the regulatory provisions of the Local Government Act was conducted in order to seek public opinion on the matter. All of these processes meet the guidelines stipulated in the Local Government Act and the Community Charter.

That in-depth analysis is important because a secret unpopular prison proposal was imposed in spite of clear opposition.  By meeting the “guidelines stipulated in the Local Government Act and the Community Charter” this process could be used in your community and let’s hope it’s not to impose a hazardous waste facility, a nuclear waste storage site, an oil pipeline, a superhighway or any other unsavoury project.

Apparently, Council is permitted to tear apart the fabric of a community, set neighbour against neighbour, friend against friend, husband against wife or children against parents, destroy tourist businesses or force you to move.

More insight from the RCMP letter:

“Elected officials are permitted to act and advocate on behalf of their communities while abiding by applicable legislation.

The construction of a correctional facility within the Village of Lumby would undoubtedly have significant impact on that community, including Area D.

I recognize that many residents of the area share your concerns as to the process by which council has introduced the Village’s candidacy to host a correctional facility and the appearance of lack of transparency in that process. However, the means by which the concept originated and the subsequent in-camera discussions held by council prior to the matter becoming public did not violate any laws.”

and further:

“The six month limitation of action has expired regarding allegations of procedural deficiencies that may have occurred during council or public meetings leading to the referendum, therefore the investigation of those alleged deficiencies would serve no purpose. There are no grounds to initiate a Criminal Code investigation into this matter.”

So at least we all know what can be done under the Local Government Act and the Community Charter in secrecy but just because they can do it doesn’t make it right.  We need to network – present a strong and united face so that Government balances the legislation to let us hold our officials accountable.  We need to prevent abusive powers being used against a community.  Powers that are granted to our local Municipal Councils are without controls and we need to take back our community for the living breathing people who should have more rights than a corporation.

 


2 comments

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  1. Kim

    Sadly, the RCMP seem to be worried about renewing their contract in BC for another 20 years. It is highly unlikely that they will open any criminal investigations into political activities. From today’s Tyee,

    http://thetyee.ca/Blogs/TheHook/BC-Politics/2011/08/26/RCMP_missing_audit/

    Great series Priscilla, sharing…

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    1. admin

      Hi Kim,
      Yes there does seem to be a fear problem when contracts are up for negotiation between the BC Government and service providers. It is not just a problem for the RCMP. I see it in the other areas too. When people bid on contracts and when people are government employees they fear losing their jobs if they speak out against Government wrongdoing. There is whistle blower protection but I think it only applies to Federal employees.

      I believe the RCMP are good people with a commitment to investigate criminal corruption – but as we have seen in Lumby – the statute of limitation ties the hands of investigators and it forces communities to be vigilant and suspicious of their elected officials. How wrong is that? There ought not to be any excuse in law that renders the law useless. If we want to be a true democracy, we need to roll back centralized power so that all of us can share in the best our Country can offer. Food security, safe communities, health services and restorative justice.

      Let’s hope we have the right to work and participate in our communities without fear of overbearing Corporations and oppressive power that can swoop in and deny a contract or other benefits after opposing a Government prison.

      We have only one planet, only one Canada only one short life. This is it – if not me then who will do Jack’s work? Boots on the ground Kim – it’s up to us now – we must organize for the next election – one single vote is power for positive change – it’s not violent! It is legal! Our vote can take us to greater equality. Have a great day Kim – Love over hate and together in action for the greater good – Priscilla

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