For 20 years, the vast majority of Kootenay residents have been clear about a resort proposed right in the middle of the region. We want a Jumbo wild and not a year-round ski resort. The Ktunaxa want their sacred places honoured, not destroyed. Since we live in a majority-rule democracy, you would think that the government would then recognize the need to back away from the proposed resort. However, if you thought that, you'd be wrong.
On March 22, the Liberals announced their approval of the Jumbo Glacier Resort master development agreement. In doing so, they ignored local First Nations, local governments, groups representing environmental and business interests, thousands of letters, thousands of submissions to the environmental assessment process, countless petitions, numerous rallies, hundreds of phone calls and dozens of polls.
Since that day, Columbia River-Revelstoke MLA Norm Macdonald and I have been working with our constituents as we refuse to be ignored. We met with staff for the Ministry of Forest, Lands and Natural Resource Operations to find out more about the agreement with JGR and where the land was headed. There, we learned that land use decisions would be up to local government, and on that day the decision makers would have been the elected members of the Regional District of East Kootenay. However, the proponents preferred JGR to become a resort municipality even though no one was living there — a mighty good option for them considering the Liberals would appoint a mayor and council who would govern no one and be accountable to no one as they made land use decisions impacting an entire region. Norm and I wanted to learn more about the latter possibility.
I asked for a meeting with the responsible ministry, the Ministry of Community, Sport and Cultural Development. They ignored my request for weeks. Next thing we knew, tucked away in a miscellaneous bill, Bill 41, was the legislative change allowing the government to create a resort municipality and appoint the council without a single resident.
The appointed council of the ghost town resort municipality can sit on the regional district. It can borrow from the Municipal Finance Authority, using local government money to finance its development. If it goes bankrupt, B.C. local governments pick up the tab.
This is a major legislative change, but because the Liberals want to spin it otherwise, they say they didn't need to consult the Union of BC Municipalities. That explains why the president had yet to be briefed about it when I called the office May 3. In fact, the Liberals didn't consult anyone on this change.
Norm and I spoke against this legislation, noting that it is undemocratic and a sneaky way to force Jumbo Glacier Resort down the throats of Kootenay residents. To watch the entire debate, go to www.michellemungall.ca. All NDP members proudly voted against this section of Bill 41.
During the debates, I asked the minister if this legislation — allowing government to create ghost towns governed by their appointees — “is about creating a resort municipality for Jumbo Glacier Resort.” Interestingly, she didn't say no.
Footnote: I'm sad to say that I have to miss the Creston Valley Blossom Festival this year. My husband, Zak, is spending two months in Ecuador volunteering his expertise as a nurse practitioner, and I will be there supporting him while the legislature is on a weeklong break. Warm wishes for another fun year!
Michelle Mungall is the member of the legislative assembly for the Nelson-Creston provincial riding, and is the Opposition critic for advanced education, youth and labour market development.