It happened in 2017: Year of butting heads

A bunch of garbage dominates politics in 2017

Sewage and waste planning and discussions carried over from 2016, City of Powell River and Powell River Regional District tried to get along and work together and a white elephant still stands in the centre of town.

Those stories dominated the news pages of the Peak in 2017. It was not a year in the keeping with the spirit of qathet, the proposed new regional district name gifted from Tla’amin Nation elders, meaning “working together.”

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After a heated debate about the process for public input, in a narrow four to three decision, the regional board voted to request the province consider renaming the local government qathet Regional District and awaits approval from the provincial cabinet.

"I'm very pleased it has gone through," said regional district board chair and Electoral Area A director Patrick Brabazon after the October vote. "It was a very good process.”

Electoral Area C director Colin Palmer vehemently disagreed.

“This whole thing has been unbelievable,” Palmer told the board while objecting to how the public was consulted. “I've never seen anything like it.”

With just over 500 comments from a population of approximately 20,000 people, Brabazon said he felt overall the name change “wasn’t a pressing issue for most residents of the regional district.”

The year began on a note that set the tone between the city and regional district after the release of the regional recreation study.

“We are going to have a vigorous discussion,” said Palmer, about the talks involving the regional district, city and Tla’amin.

The study contained 160 recommendations regarding a regional service model with a cost-sharing formula for parks, trails and Powell River Recreation Complex, which became the main sticking point.

“The time for the city bearing the cost for something we all use has to come to an end,” said City of Powell River mayor Dave Formosa. “If you [regional district] go to referendum or have some accurate way of measuring the opinion of your people, that’s all we ask.”

Brabazon said there would be a referendum in his area that could sidetrack everything.

“We have to assume a negative vote in a referendum would end the discussions,” said Brabazon.

The prickly relationship between the city and regional district continued over a new regional solid-waste management plan, a complex issue endorsed by both governments, but with major flaws left unresolved, including how to pay for it.

More waste, this time sewage, was brought before city council in November when it was presented with three possible models for a new wastewater treatment facility. A group of residents in Townsite, where the plant is to be located, voiced concerns about the facility being in their back yard. PR Groundswell and Townsite Ratepayers Association expressed disdain for the industrial design of the facility and its impact on surrounding greenspace.

City hall had its hands full with another issue many taxpayers considered a waste of their money: a raise in pay for councillors and the mayor.

Most Powell River residents saw the former Inn at Westview in the centre of town as a piece of garbage and called for its removal in April. Despite an order from city council requiring building owner Seaboard Hotels to apply for a permit to take down the derelict eyesore at the centre of town within 15 days, the building still stands.

Meanwhile, in provincial politics, Powell River-Sunshine Coast MLA Nicolas Simons was re-elected to a fourth term by a landslide, but was not given a cabinet position within premier John Horgan’s new NDP minority government. Instead, Simons was given the chair of the Select Standing Committee on Children and Youth.

“Politics sometimes doesn't always come out the way you want it to," said Simons, "but I'll take full advantage of the opportunity given to me."

No year-in-review is complete without the tie that binds everyone in the region, the ongoing love-hate relationship with BC Ferries.

Not surprisingly, given the history of the relationship between the corporation and area residents, the arrival of the new Salish Orca was met with complaints. The ship was pretty on the outside but inside stairs were too steep, electric doors stuck and the ship was plagued with delays on its early runs.

The new year promises more fireworks when voters go to the polls for municipal, regional district and school board elections, and all of the leftovers from 2017.

Copyright © 2018 Powell River Peak

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