By Steve Hubrecht
The Union of B.C. Municipalities has decided not to get involved in a West Kootenay Ecosociety petition to the B.C. Supreme Court about Jumbo Glacier Mountain Resort Municipality.
The Nelson-based society, which has been an opponent of Jumbo Glacier Resort for more than a decade, filed an application for a judicial review of the resort municipality, arguing that creating a municipality with an appointed mayor and councillors violates the constitution and some provincial statues.
The council of both the Village of Radium Hot Springs and the District of Invermere sent letters to the union about the petition in the months after the application was filed— Invermere council asking the union to intervene and Radium council asking the union not to.
Union president Mary Sjostrom wrote both municipalities back on Thursday, May 9th, saying the union would stay out of the matter.
“We normally don’t get involved (in legal matters) at this stage, but mainly the union executive chose not to get involved because it is not a local government filing the petition and we represent local governments,” said Ms. Sjostrom, adding that when the union does intervene in legal matters involving its member municipalities, it typically does so during the appeals stage.
“It could have been different if it was one of our members filing the application” she said. “But it was a society.”
Invermere council formally received and filed its letter from the union during its May 14th council meeting while Radium council formally received and filed its letter during its May 22nd council meeting.
In both letters, Ms. Sjostrom wrote that the union spent substantial time reviewing background information on the matter, considering options and deciding what to do. Ms. Sjostrom also said the union executive came to the conclusion that consultation by the Province with the union regarding Bill 41 was inadequate.
“We brought it to to (the Province’s) attention and when they get back to work we hope we’ll have a meeting with the minister,” said Ms. Sjostrom. “We need to make sure we are consulted.”
The mayors of Invermere and Radium had differing reactions to the union’s response.
“We are pleased with the decision. Local governments, especially in the East Kootenay, are not challenging this. It is an ecosociety from the West Kootenay that is, so UBCM has no jurisdiction in the matter,” said Radium mayor Dee Conklin, adding that Radium council wrote its letter to let the union know that not all municipalities and people in the region are anti-Jumbo.
“We hope this can all be put behind us and we can move forward in a positive and ecological manner,” said Mrs. Conklin.
Invermere mayor Gerry Taft said he was disappointed with the union’s response and has sent another letter back to the union expressing concern with its decision.
One reason local government bodies, including the District of Invermere, opted not to become legally involved in the application was because some people in those local governments feel it is the union’s role to get involved, not that of local governments, he said.
“So it’s a bit of a circular argument for the union to say it won’t get involved because no local governments are and, in my opinion, a bit of passing the buck,” said Mr. Taft, adding the petition is not about the potential benefits or potential drawbacks of Jumbo Glacier Resort.
“The point Invermere is trying to make is about governance — what a town is, whether a municipality can or should exist with appointed representatives and without people — not whether or not you support Jumbo. That seemed to be a point the UBCM missed, that this is a governance issue and not about Jumbo,” said Mr. Taft.
The West Kootenay Ecosociety’s executive director David Reid also expressed unhappiness with the union’s decision.
“Obviously we’re disappointed that the UBCM has decided not to become involved in this issue, which has ramifications for municipalities across B.C.,” said Mr. Reid. “It’s strange because the majority of UBCM members voted in support of a resolution last fall that took the province to task for moving forward with the (Jumbo Glacier Mountain Resort) municipality without consulting the UBCM.”
Mr. Reid said previous B.C. municipalities that began with appointed mayors and councils (Elkford and Tumbler Ridge) do not necessarily mean such appointments can and should be done again.
“It’s a little confusing — yes, it’s happened before, but that doesn’t mean it’s a legal precedent. It just means they got away with it because there wasn’t any opposition,” he said. “We are confident the court is going to rule in our favour. A municipality is obviously a place where people live.”
The union received letters from 12 B.C. municipalities about the West Kootenay Ecosociety’s petition — a few (including Invermere’s) asking the union to intervene, one (Radium’s) asking the union not to intervene, but most simply seeking clarification on the issue, according to Ms. Sjostrom. Of the 12 municipalities, five — Invermere, Radium, Nelson, New Denver and Montrose — are in the Kootenay region.