Province refuses to review Coldstream council

MLA Eric Foster

VERNON - The province won’t be reviewing a North Okanagan council accused of letting personal bias corrupt its actions, says Vernon’s MLA.

The Greater Vernon Governance Society wants the province to examine Coldstream council’s actions prior to voting no to a study on the topic of amalgamating Greater Vernon’s four communities: The City of Vernon, District of Coldstream and Areas B and C. The city is the sole community to have supported doing the research, which would be funded by the province.

“The society is unhappy with the way things unfolded but the council did not do anything in contravention of the local government act,” Vernon-Monashee MLA Eric Foster says.

The society gathered 3,160 names on a petition for a review of amalgamation and insists it's enough interest for the province to act on. But the province requires at least two of the four communities to support the study.

“It’s got to be locally driven and the interest has to be there from all the communities for the province to look at it,” Foster says.

The society believes Coldstream council had personal bias and a predetermined decision on the matter. It also takes issue with the fact that some councillors attended a Coldstream Ratepayers Association meeting where they encouraged residents to oppose the study.

“We believe, in common with other municipal jurisdictions, councillors should not offer personal opinions in public forums, and when a quorum of elected officials is present and speaking on a topic, formal minutes should be taken and entered into the public record,” the society stated in a release.

Foster says there was no responsibility for council to take minutes at the event because it was a community presentation not a public hearing or council meeting.

“There’s no law that says you can’t have a predetermined decision,” Foster says.

Over his years as MLA and formerly a councillor in Lumby, Foster has heard the amalgamation debate come up time and time again.

“It comes up every so many years but it’s always sort of there. There are always people that think the whole regional district should be one municipality and there are people that think it should just be left alone,” he says.

Judging by the number of people who signed the petition, including 815 in Coldstream, Foster suspects amalgamation will be a hot topic during the upcoming municipal elections.

“Next fall, the people of Coldstream and Areas B and C will make that decision. If they’re not happy, they’ll tell them (representatives).”

To contact the reporter for this story, email Charlotte Helston at chelston@infotelnews.ca, call (250)309-5230 or tweet @charhelston.

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