In a 4-3 vote, Comox council defeated a motion to consider an appeal to a decision not to allow a delegation request from a citizen-led group concerned about the Enbridge Northern Gateway Project.
Council received a request from Kathryn Askew to appear as a delegation before its July 16 regular meeting. The intent was to gather support from town council regarding opposition to pipelines and tankers in B.C.
Richard Kanigan, chief administrative officer for the town, said in a report as the request did not fall within the jurisdiction of the Town, it was denied.
As per a section of the Comox Council Procedure Bylaw, Askew appealed the decision to not allow her delegation, and was present — along with a crowd which filled council chambers — at Wednesday’s meeting.
Last week, Cumberland council allowed a presentation from the delegation, and said it will consider this month whether it wants to take a stance on proposals to increase tanker traffic in B.C. waters.
According to the proposed resolution, 35 B.C. community governments — including Kitimat (which stands to gain the most from the Northern Gateway project), large municipalities like Vancouver and Victoria, and the Union of BC Municipalities and the Association of Vancouver Island Coastal Communities — have already adopted similar resolutions.
Courtenay Mayor Larry Jangula said it was not within Courtenay council’s mandate, and council was expected to consider the request at its Monday council meeting (after the Record’s deadline).
Coun. Barbara Price said when citizens come forward, it is incumbent on council to allow them the time to speak.
“We allow resolutions on various topics, and it’s been passed by other local governments throughout B.C. I would like to hear the details and consider a resolution. It think it’s the democratic way to go.”
Mayor Paul Ives said the request stems from the Dogwood Initiative — a non-profit organization which focuses on ways for residents to take back decision-making power over their land and water — and is lobbying for a province-wide referendum.
“The concern I have is related to this and other similar issues such as smart meters. Council has lots of work and staff has to focus on our mandate,” he explained.
“My concern is if council considers matters outside the jurisdiction of the Town … I’m not sure what role that serves. As passionate as people are about this issue, we also have to consider what our job is.”
When questioned by Ives whether he would be willing to hear delegations from other stakeholders in the industry such as shipping, pipeline, oil sands and First Nations to get a full picture and asking for reports from members of staff, Coun. Hugh MacKinnon said they would be welcome to apply to speak.
“However I think our council has been elected and I have faith in our council members that they can balance the view on this issue.”
Coun. Tom Grant noted he would feel uncomfortable voting on a resolution when he doesn’t know how the citizens of the Town feel about the issue.
“We’ve got 13,500 citizens of the Town of Comox, and for this council to speak on behalf of those on an issue that’s outside of our jurisdiction — I just think that’s not right.”
Price argued council has voted on many issues that are outside road, sewer and recreation such as free trade agreements.
“Resolutions cross all sorts of boundaries, and it’s a way of lobbying,” she noted. “And as to the argument that we can’t speak for the people of Comox, through every council meeting, that’s exactly what we do.”
Couns. Patti Fletcher, Price and MacKinnon voted in favour of the motion, and Couns. Tom Grant, Ken Grant, Maureen Swift and Mayor Ives voted against.