Area D vote cost questioned

Questions asked about the cost of what proved to be an unnecessary vote

In the days following the failed referendum to amalgamate the northern portion of Area D into the City of Campbell River, questions are being asked about the cost of what proved to be an unnecessary vote.

“All of Area D, the rest of the regional district and Campbell River citizens would have suffered financially if this decision had gone the other way,” said Brenda Leigh, Area D representative on the Strathcona Regional District. “Citizens of Campbell River, whose council – conservatively – wasted approximately $200,000 of public funds on this process, asking a question that didn’t need to be asked, should be held accountable financially and politically.”

Leigh said the 84.3 per cent “No” vote sends a clear message that “Area D does not aspire to be part of the City of Campbell River.”

“We love our rural area as it is and the large majority of people who, carefully and thoughtfully, demonstrated their respect for democracy and performed their civic duties by voting in this referendum showed how serious Area D is about our right to choose the kind of community we want to live in,” Leigh said. “This decision should put an end to the speculation that any part of Area D is ‘up for grabs.’”

Campbell River Mayor Walter Jakeway, who never seemed to support the plan to absorb Area D as a way to extend municipal sewer services, agreed that the referendum was a waste of time and money.

“It is regrettable that the city council spent so much City of Campbell River money and manpower/effort to determine an outcome that was obvious early in the process,” he said. “The referendum’s decisive result was no surprise, as Area D residents showed their displeasure dramatically.”

Leigh paid tribute to residents in northern Area D who campaigned against the city’s proposal and what she sees as an attempt to “divide and conquer” the rural area immediately south of the city.

“Our heroes on the ‘No’ campaign who live at the ‘front line’ did an amazing and wonderful job,” she said. “We are ONE community; we should have been able to vote as ONE community. I can confirm that citizens from one end of Area D to the other are very grateful for the work that northern Area D people did on this referendum. The dedicated volunteers who worked on this campaign were incredibly professional and well-organized. They never stopped, they never faltered, and they never failed.

“They exemplified the very best of civic involvement. Area D thanks them.”

Meanwhile, Jakeway said it doesn’t take a lot of money to gauge the feelings of a community, all it takes is time and effort.

“If and when a portion, or all of the regional district wants to join Campbell River, all they have to do is ask,” he said. “If the next city council significantly improves our civic function and attitude, that day may arrive in the not so distant future.

In the meantime, he said, the 2015-2018 city council should focus on providing equitable infrastructure services to large portions of the city that amalgamated in decades past, but “have been forgotten.”

“City taxes are (too high) and all civic neighbourhoods deserve fair treatment when it comes to eliminating storm ditches, installing sidewalks, parks, street lights, adequate water pressure, etc.”