Last Friday - the North Central Local Government Association or NCLGA sent a letter to BC's Lieutenant-Governor (LG) on the developing governance situation in Victoria. You can read that letter in full here. This was reviewed by CBC here and has triggered significant discussion on Twitter
Meanwhile - the Mayors of Quesnel, Smithers and Masset and Quesnel City Councillor Scott Elliott have each expressed their public concern in regards to the NCGLA Letter to the Province's LG.
Taylor Bachrach - the Mayor of Smithers said on Twitter: "Quite an inappropriate intervention, IMHO (In My Humble Opinion)
Bob Simpson - the Mayor of Quesnel told My Cariboo Now: "Concerns expressed by NCLGA are 'nonsense' (click here). Mayor Simpson will be asking his Council this evening to ask NCLGA to withdraw the letter
Scott Elliott - a Quesnel City Councillor said on Twitter: "It's important that an organization like NCLGA stay non-partisan
And Andrew Merilees, the Mayor of Masset, on Twitter, went the furthest and called on NCLGA President Shaely Wilbur to resign her position immediately and an apology from both the NCLGA Board/Executive for this 'inappropriate letter'
For her part - NCGLA President (and Dawson Creek City Councillor) Shaely Wilbur told EnergeticCity.ca:
“I just wanted to quickly comment on my letter to the Lt. Governor,
Firstly, as president of our area association and its official spokesperson, I take full responsibility for any messaging that comes from our board and apologise sincerely to anyone who may be offended by my letter.
My intention was certainly not to offend in any measure. I have been involved in Northern BC politics for over two decades and am fully aware of the width and breadth of political views and perspectives amongst NCLGA politicians.
In the text of the letter I clearly and intentionally avoid any reference to political policies or ideologies, and go out of my way to identify the non-partisan nature of the concern I outline.
It is, quite frankly, all about process. Upon conferring with the NCLGA Executive, we agreed unanimously that a letter outlining our concerns should be sent, in a completely unbiased and non-partisan way, to the LG.
I directed staff to draft a letter based on our concerns, and did send the subsequent draft letter to the board for comment. My error was not allowing adequate time for response.
We do not have a policy or protocols in place for emerging issues such as this. I understood it as my responsibility to comment on a fast unfolding scenario that seemed to directly affect, or neglect our region.
As a member of the BC Liberal party, I understand people who might think I was intentionally targeting NDP and Green party ideologies. I wasn’t at all, and would have felt compelled to write with the same concerns had the parties been reversed.
My sincere goal is simply to defend the interests of all our communities. As a councillor and NCLGA board member, I’ve been advocating aggressively for years in direct opposition to the party in power.
To be very specific, my sincere concern is that a binding contract committing MLAs to support particular initiatives and “spending” votes (and other confidence votes) severely limits any outside access to the legislative process.
The letter views the legislature as a set of 87 individual MLAs, as does the constitution. Had there been no contract or private deliberations about the transfer of power amongst MLAs, there would be no concern whatsoever. The NCLGA has a plethora of North-specific resolutions based on everything from revenue sharing to forestry and the environment. Almost all of them would require a specific vote on spending. The binding, written agreement in question specifically requires that a specific set of MLAs support all such votes no matter what. This would potentially severely hamper our advocacy abilities.
We have been far more direct and critical on a plethora of issues from ferry cutbacks, agricultural lands, the HST, emergency services, etc.
The letter was meant to be delivered in the most direct and respectful fashion. It wasn’t posted on social media by the NCLGA or me personally. It was addressed to the Lt. Governor because she can advise all three parties, in an unbiased and neutral way, the concerns we have about our region and the legislative process.
Finally, the letter was sent with the best intentions amidst a fervour of commentary from all angles urging action. I acted, perhaps prematurely. On social media my young granddaughter has now been attacked and accusations are being made against me personally. This is obviously unwelcomed, to say the least.
I am happy to discuss next steps with any of you. As an association we maintain respectful contact with all political parties in the legislature which will continue. Personally, I have huge respect and empathy for all elected officials who dare to create positive change, however they see it. All three Provincial party leaders have worked extremely hard for BC and I think we are lucky to have such high caliber Leadership in BC.
My only concern was the structure of the contract in question, and not at all on anyone’s plans for the future of the Province.
Thank you to everyone who has offered support and helpful suggestions and insights around next steps.
I greatly appreciate your time and constructive input.
An emergency meeting of the NCLGA Executive has been called for 1pm today to discuss this subject and determine next steps
For my own part -- this is NOT a letter I would agree to write. It's not part of that true consensus, non-partisan position that NCGLA would take on broad policy positions within the North Central region of BC. However - the letter is written so hopefully today's NCLGA Board meeting can clear the air and move forward on returning to that traditional role of NCLGA advocating for local government issues within the North Central area of BC.....