For over two decades, the issue of Jumbo Glacier has been on the minds of Kootenay residents. We have been clear. Every survey shows that more than 70 per cent of locals want to keep it wild, free from a mega-ski resort development that isn’t good for the environment or the type of tourism economy we want to develop. That’s what makes recent events so important to consider.
On Feb. 19, the new Jumbo municipality had its first council meeting. Mayor Greg Deck, who also chairs the Columbia Basin Trust, called Couns. Nancy Hugunin and Steve Ostrander to order for this inaugural meeting held in Radium.
The meeting was not held within Jumbo boundaries for a few reasons. There are no buildings, thus requiring the mayor and council to wear uncomfortable balaclavas and heavy parkas. Also, the road to the glacier isn’t plowed. No one lives there, so plowing the road would be a waste of tax dollars anyhow.
No people, no buildings, just genetically important grizzly bears live on that glacier, and yet it is a municipality with a council ready to make land use decisions. Addition-ally, they can apply to the Municipal Finance Authority, funded by your tax dollars, for money to build roads, water treatment facilities and other infrastructure for the resort.
Meanwhile, they are accountable to no one.
This is why local governments are upset about the concept. The Association of Kootenay Boundary Local Governments and the Union of BC Municipalities passed resolutions in 2012 saying that municipalities must have a minimum of 200 permanent residents prior to incorporation. The Regional District of East Kootenay is also disturbed with the idea that members from Jumbo have a seat on the board and can thus influence regional land use decisions. They passed a resolution letting the government know that they oppose the section of the letters patent, the legal function to create a municipality, giving Jumbo a seat at the Regional District of East Kootenay without residents.
Jumbo’s council was appointed by the legislature’s strongest opponent to Jumbo Wild, Kootenay East MLA and Minister for Community, Sport and Cultural Development Bill Bennett. Finding no problems with the lack of democracy in all of this, he responded to my questions in the legislature, saying it’s about jobs (to view the exchange, go to www.michellemungall.ca).
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.