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Public input for possible Powell River name change referred to working group

Residents wanting to speak up will have to wait for group comprised of city and Tla’amin Nation representatives
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PASSES RESOLUTION: City of Powell River councillors have voted to refer public comment about a possible name change to the joint working committee of city and Tla’amin Nation representatives, rather than accept delegations on the topic at committee of the whole meetings.

Delegations wanting to speak to city councillors about a possible name change for City of Powell River will be referred to the joint working group structured to examine the matter.

At an April 21 meeting, councillors considered a resolution that: written correspondence continues to be included on the committee of the whole meeting agendas, and while the possible name change joint working group hosts public input meetings, delegations and verbal presentation requests to council and committee of the whole be directed to attend and participate in those possible name change public meetings. The joint working group is comprised of representatives of the city and Tla’amin Nation who are spearheading the initiative.

Councillor Maggie Hathaway, who is a member of the working group, said she attended the first open meeting the group put on and she was “quite shocked” there was no opportunity for public input. She said the session was well done, but there was no opportunity for people who wanted to appear as a delegation to speak.

“I went and did a little bit of questioning and was told that wouldn’t be the case, that it was an education piece,” said Hathaway. “I went to the next meeting and it was stated that in May it would be available for public input. I’m not sure how that came about because the joint working group hasn’t met."

Hathaway added that it seems to be a change in direction that hasn’t been sanctioned by the group and won’t be until April 29.

“It’s a good idea, but in that interim time, if people want to come and speak about it, as a council, until there is some place for them to go, we need to accept them here as a delegation,” said Hathaway. “Until at least May, there is no other place for them to go. I would like to change the second part of the motion that we will accept delegations until such time as there is an outlet for those who would like to speak publicly.”

Possible name change group continues to receive feedback

Councillor Cindy Elliott, also a member of the working group, said the process, as she understands it, is that the group is developing the process and rolling it out, using input as it goes to develop the next phases.

“The initial phase was a survey, which we took input from, and developed April meetings based on some of the feedback we received through that survey,” added Elliott. “We continue to receive feedback and we continue to develop more phases of community engagement. There are sessions being developed in May which we haven’t had a chance to completely iron out yet.

“The feedback we are receiving is people would like to have a certain type of meeting where we can have speakers on a stage. The current sessions do have avenues for input. It is on individual conversations with the groups at the tables after orientation.”

Elliott said the idea that there would be presentations at both the engagement process and committee of the whole at the same time is counterproductive.

“The process is trying to be as inclusive as possible and it’s trying to develop what the community wants, based on feedback as we go,” said Elliott. “I like the protocols we have in the motion. Once the joint working group has concluded the community engagement process, we could open the floor to delegates to come forward. It would be better served to wait until it finishes rolling out before we open the floor up to direct our time at committee of the whole or city council to delegations.”

Councillor George Doubt said he is in favour of the resolution. He said it channels correspondence to the city to the working group for consideration, and directs delegates to ask to speak to that group.

“I hope the joint working group finds a way to let the public have their say,” added Doubt.

Councillor CaroleAnn Leishman said she supported the resolution and that it would be detrimental to subvert the working group process before it has an opportunity to participate in the engagement.

Councillor Rob Southcott said it is important that everyone has the opportunity to be heard. He said he was encouraged that the working group will listen and provide an adequate audience for those who wish to speak.

People need a voice regarding possible renaming, says councillor

Councillor Jim Palm said he appreciated Hathaway’s words. The process of looking at a possible name change will take longer than most people realize and the council chamber is built for people to come in to voice opinions, he added.

“To stifle anyone in that regard, I am not supportive of,” said Palm. “People need a voice. Right now, they don’t have one.”

Mayor Dave Formosa said the possible renaming is a difficult process that Tla’amin has asked the city to undertake. He said under the protocol agreement between the two governments and the community accord, the two governments have agreed to talk things out.

Formosa said the joint working group is now in an education and communication process and is not telling people they will not be heard from.

“We’ve never said we don’t want people to speak,” said Formosa. “We did a lousy job of communicating the process. It was never intended that people can’t speak.”

Formosa said when he talks with people one-on-one and tells them they will have the opportunity to speak, everyone has said that is good. People are going to get a say, but the way it rolled out, it didn’t look like that, he added.

“We will fix it,” said Formosa. “We need to complete the process and for people to have trust that the elected officials are listening and will bring that information back to the joint working group.”

Council voted in favour of the resolution, with Palm opposed.

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