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Group supports public poll regarding possible name change for Powell River

Committe that organized petition for a referendum would accept a different public opinion piece
WANTS SAY: Community referendum committee spokesperson Dean Gerhart appeared before City of Powell River’s committee of the whole to offer assistance with a public opinion poll into a possible name change for the city.

A committee that was advocating for a referendum on a possible name change for the City of Powell River is willing to accept a public opinion poll.

Dean Gerhart, representing what has been referred to as the referendum committee, said his group has always been about having an opportunity for residents to have a voice in any name change.

“The name change process, in my opinion, has damaged so much of what I thought had been good relationships within our communities,” said Gerhart, at the July 5 committee of the whole meeting. “I would like to encourage both sides of government to have the courage to have the conversation: is it worth it to continue?”

Gerhart said the last time he was before council, councillor Maggie Hathaway spoke of a public opinion poll conducted in the Village of Queen Charlotte regarding a name change. He said with the absences of the willingness to conduct a referendum, the committee would support such a poll conducted by council.

“We feel very strongly that residents should have a say, and this is backed up by the number of people that supported our referendum petition,” said Gerhart. “We would also like to offer our assistance to help develop the poll to ensure fairness, accuracy and anonymity. I have no doubt this will be the number one issue in the coming election.”

Councillor Cindy Elliott said she understands people would like councillors to answer questions of this nature right away. She said it is her position that the conversation is still ongoing and isn’t ready to be answered.

“I’m not in favour of moving forward until we’ve had that happen,” said Elliott. “We need more time to ensure we do a really good job of input from our community and make sure the community is behind everything we do.”

Councillor Rob Southcott asked Gerhart if his committee had considered that the opinion poll was possibly one piece of all the material that council will be looking at.

“There’s a lot of work being done and we’ve not had the information back from the joint working group,” added Southcott.

Gerhart said it had not been reviewed in that sense because the committee does not know where all the pieces fit.

“Once the pieces come together, we’re just offering our help in trying to get a voice for the taxpayers of Powell River on a name change,” said Gerhart. “We would be happy to come back at a later time if you think that we have the ability to put input into it.”

Councillor Jim Palm said in the case of Queen Charlotte, an opinion poll was conducted. Palm said he understands that because the proposed name change is not a monetary issue, a referendum cannot be held.

“An opinion poll is the logical process,” said Palm. “I’m not happy about how the process has rolled out, having been to all the meetings and seeing the limited input that the taxpayers of Powell River have been afforded. Not only does the report on the findings need to come forward, but, down the road, we need an opinion poll to know exactly where the good citizens of Powell River stand exactly on the issue, so everyone gets a voice.”

Councillor George Doubt said he noted the committee’s position was adjusting as the process is being followed. He said it’s clear that the committee would like to see an opinion poll and it’s something they would support.

“We will soon be receiving a report from the joint working group, there will be public discussions and we’ll decide what the next step is going to be,” said Doubt. “The appropriate time for an opinion poll is something that will come out as we go through the process.”

Elliott said there is no hope of anything going forward from the city before the next municipal election in October.

“People seem to be trying to rush us a bit and I wish they would allow the process to happen,” said Elliott. “We’re going to get a report that makes some recommendations and from those we might decide what the next step in the process is.”

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