One director accused another of spreading false allegations during a recent meeting of the Strathcona Regional District board.
Campbell River Director and Mayor Andy Adams grew visibly upset at the Sept. 20 meeting as Area D Director Brenda Leigh attempted to shoot down a new service that all communities within the regional district would pay into to fund new services.
Leigh said she didn’t want Area D to be on the hook for a service it doesn’t want and voiced her suspicions that municipal directors were behind the initiative.
“We don’t need this, this is smoke and mirrors to try and bring in something that the electoral areas don’t want, which is probably tourism,” Leigh said. “We don’t want to have to pay for that. Municipalities are well-funded and backed through ICET and through the provincial government. We don’t want to risk our resident taxpayers with municipal desires that don’t have anything to do with our electoral areas and that’s what this is about in my opinion. It’s just not fair.”
That prompted Adams to speak up.
“I really take exception to continued false and misleading statements made on the agenda of the City of Campbell River by the Area D director,” he said. “It’s completely unacceptable. There’s no basis for it, there’s no truth to it and I’m fed up. So with that, I want to table this motion.”
The board agreed with tabling the motion and letting go of what proved to be a controversial issue for the board.
The four electoral area directors had previously voiced concerns over the feasibility studies service, which staff had designed in order to enable the board to dip into a pot of money that wouldn’t otherwise be available to pursue things such as a new water or tourism service.
Directors Leigh and Area A Director Gerald Whalley were particularly vocal in their opposition at a previous board meeting in August when the service first appeared on the table and continued to raise concerns at the Sept. 20 board meeting that electoral areas could be outvoted by municipal directors into participating in services they want nothing to do with.
“This has been an unnecessary and completely divisive issue at this board,” Leigh said. “There should never be a situation where the board’s forcing people into something against their will. I find it’s just disgraceful and unacceptable that people would think that way.”
“I have no interest and I feel very strongly against it,” he said. “It’s kind of a divisive issue and it’s pitting electoral areas against the rest of the board. There’s no feasibility study I could ever contemplate that I would ever want to participate in so why would I want to be part of a service that’s totally useless to my area?”
Chief Administrative Officer Dave Leitch said while staff can’t control how the board would vote, the new service would help electoral areas and their taxpayers.
“For example, in Area D, if a group came to you with an idea about a service function, where would the money come from? What happens is we have no money because there is no function,” Leitch said. “So we have this feasibility service that we draw from and pay back to. What happens right now, is that if we have any function in the electoral areas that is required, then as it sits now, the pot is paid for collectively by everyone.”
But, he explained, with the function in place, everyone would be paying into a pot that could be used when situations arise.
“It really is to provide a vehicle for a function to be studied and paid back by those who use them,” Leitch said. “If we don’t support this, then the current feasibility function will be paid by everyone and Campbell River takes on the lion’s share (as the largest community within the regional district).”
In the end, however, the objections of some directors won out.
“I think it would be heavy-handed to push this through over the objections of it,” Campbell River Director Ron Kerr said, adding the issue came down to some directors not having faith in others. “It’s a matter of trust, that’s the very bottom line, it’s on both sides.”