Local politicians dismiss chamber director’s comments

Radio report, ministry letter lead to public facts dispute

A Jan. 21 CBC radio interview with South Cariboo Chamber of Commerce (SCCC) director Maureen Pinkney is being challenged as being inaccurate by the Cariboo Regional District (CRD).

The interview reported a move was underway to amalgamate the District of 100 Mile House with outlying areas of the South Cariboo.

During the CRD’s Jan. 30 budget consultation meeting in 100 Mile House, board chair Al Richmond detailed why the directors said that information is incorrect.

“There was a report on CBC about looking into a new governance structure for the South Cariboo.

“The [SCCC] brought forward early last year some interest in forming a regional municipality, and then subsequently later they changed their mind, to ‘perhaps we should form another regional district for the south’.”

Said Richmond: “[This was] largely driven initially by some of the corporate feelings of the commercial taxpayers in 100 Mile [who live in the CRD], that they want to be able to vote for council, and are unable to by provincial legislation.”

He displayed a Dec. 4 letter addressed to Pinkney by Julian Paine, Assistant Deputy Minister of Community, Sport and Cultural Development (CSCD), and copied to the CRD.

In the CBC interview, which can be heard online at www.cbc.ca/bc, Pinkney said the SCCC was in recent contact with CSCD Minister Bill Bennett who is “very open” to the idea and working with the group on the plan.

However, Richmond noted Paine’s letter stated the ministry will not support the plan due to increased costs to the province and a lack of local government interest in the change.

So, they are not really in favour of changing the governance structure, Richmond said, adding he was in Victoria the week before the budget meeting, and spoke to Bennett about it.

“He said, ‘I haven’t done anything; no communication with [SCCC].’ … They weren’t supporting a governance change.”

Richmond added the CRD directors are “not participating” in any such change at this time.

Pinkney said she met with Bennett for three hours during his late-December 2012 visit to 100 Mile House.

The letter, which arrived before the Bennett meeting, was from the minister’s assistant, she said, adding the SCCC remains in pursuit of a regional municipality.

“That letter was completely nonfactual as well because [it] addresses us dividing the regional district into two … we did not ask for that from the ministry, and it is not what we intend to do.”

She added another “inaccurate” statement in the letter, and pointed out at the CRD presentation, was that local government approval is necessary to effect the change.

“Legislation states under the Local Government Act that the extension of a boundary can be done by a petition by the people. It does not have to be done by the politicians.”

At the meeting, Richmond referenced an estimated $1,200-$1,500 a year jump in taxes on each parcel, mostly for policing and road maintenance services.

“In order to incorporate as a regional district … the province will cut you a deal for five years for [these services] and they’ll also attribute money for capital,” Richmond explained. “So after five years, the holiday is over and you’ve got to pay for the entire thing.”

At the budget meeting, District of 100 Mile House Mayor Mitch Campsall said the taxpayers would receive “absolutely nothing” for their $1,500 tax hike, which, for most people, would amount to “a 100 per cent increase.”

In effect, it would be a $4,500 cost to have a council vote every three years, he added.

“People have got to realize, on our board sits four business people out of five,” Campsall said, adding several councillors are regional district residents, so they also provide that voice.

However, Pinkney said letters patent will control the government funding for roads and policing, just as they do now, so the change would not result in an increase to taxpayers.

“I am extremely disappointed with both Al Richmond and Mitch Campsall. After having worked in local politics with them for six years, you would think they would want to sit down and work together on this for the best representation for the local governments.

“These politicians are supposed to be working on our behalf, and the only people who do not stand anything to gain are [them]. The area politicians will lose some of their control.”

Pinkney said she didn’t know this presentation would be made at the budget meeting, or she would have been there to directly address these concerns.