The Aug. 28 council meeting was a unique opportunity for people to hear and see what is happening in our municipal government as it was held at the spacious and welcoming Conference Centre. The turnout was remarkable as an issue important to the residents of the proposed development on Swallow Place was being discussed. It was a highly charged, interactive session, with well-researched presentations by Sara Burleigh about the various factors which need to be considered by council when voting on granting bylaw amendments about the proposal.
But this letter is not about that. This is about citizens having their say in council. A lot of planning happens in these bi-weekly meetings. All the pertinent documentation is available online. In fact, residents have access to the same documentation as the councillors and mayor (except for in-camera issues). Of particular interest to almost everybody in the District is the plan for the proposed referendum on whether or not the Station House project moves forward, that was presented by the chief administrative officer — including the voting/polling site and the non-binding designation which are the focus of this letter. The voting venue put forth is council Chambers — which I strongly and personally take issue with for a few reasons:
Accessibility due to the use of stairs to get to the chamber in order to vote is a concern. Although there is a lift device, this is cumbersome and awkward for those who need assistance or have never used one before. This is a very congested area that is not conducive for a solid voter turnout and creates the potential of deterring people from voting instead. My question to council is why not have it at street level locations like Hope Secondary and Coquihalla Elementary School? And what about the folks who live in Silver Creek — why should they have to come into town to cast their vote? Why not use Silver Creek Elementary as a polling station as well? These school locations are at street level, weather friendly, provide effortless spacious entry, easy accessible restrooms and have plenty of voting and parking room for a strong voter turnout which our community is entitled to on this important issue.
The referendum results are designated as “non binding”. Here’s what that means, for folks who are not familiar with the term. “Referendums are not legally binding, so legally the Government can ignore the results; for example, even if the result of a pre-legislative referendum were a majority of “No” for a proposed law or plan, parliament (or council) could pass it anyway, because parliament (council) is sovereign.” My personal and public plea is that anyone who supports any of these ideas please voice your concerns. Using your voice can take the form of a phone call, an email or simply a letter to council. But most important of all, voting is using your right to participate in the democratic process when it comes to this important and expensive almost $2-million decision facing our town. Sitting around and talking about issues does not count when it comes to creating change. Showing up at meetings, writing or emailing council — speaking up — and most important of all, voting is what creates real change in our community.