Looking past a referendum

The weekly editorial for the 100 Mile Free Press

This past week, with the South Cariboo Joint Committee’s decision to go to referendum, we received phone calls, letters and comments about the recreation situation in the South Cariboo. Comments conflicted sharply from taxes being too high, to a pool not being on the table and excitement for proceeding to a referendum.

On the decision to go to referendum, the survey results show a real split on the currently proposed project. It’s definitely not clear if the support is there for a referendum to succeed. Certainly, the data so far shows it’s unlikely to be a referendum with an exceptionally strong yes vote (in the 60 to 70 per cent range) that would be preferred for a big project such as this.

The side opposing the project is largely split into two groups according to the data, between those opposed to a tax increase and those who prefer another project (i.e. pool).

One of the letters this week points out, there isn’t a formal proposal for a pool, adding that “an imaginary pool has nothing to do with what is actually being proposed.” For those who want a pool, this is likely a bit of a bitter note, as there was a formal pool proposal several years ago that didn’t go to referendum. Furthermore, while in the strictest sense a pool has nothing to do with the current project, comments on the survey and to the Free Press indicates that hundreds of South Cariboo residents see the issues as connected. Given that reality, the current proposal needs to be approached with that in mind. For it to succeed, the supporters are going to need to talk to and convince those who see the current proposal and the pool as connected; they’re the best shot proponents have.

On the taxation side, some 108 Mile Ranch residents complained that taxes would be too high (it would be $65 per $100,000 of assessed value). For 108 residents, this comes on the back of increases for a new well and manganese treatment plant. Added to that argument is that, while one of the hopes for the expansion is to attract more families, doctors etc., higher taxes could scare them away.

A secondary complaint was that areas such as Lac la Hache and Interlakes wouldn’t be sharing in the tax burden as they fall outside the South Cariboo Recreation Boundary (they would have to buy a pass). Support for a pool looked a little shy to succeed in a referendum a number of years ago. The current proposal looks pretty similar in terms of support (based on both surveys). Maybe with the pool proposal having stopped short of a referendum, should this project fail, the next step for recreation supporters would be to re-evaluate the South Cariboo Recreation Boundary which has been in place since the 1980s (outside of some chances in 2002). Large changes would require a referendum.

Regardless of what happens, we’re all going to have to move forward together.

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