Three weeks ago, Christine and Cecil Robinson and a small delegation came from Cortes Island, wishing to speak before the Strathcona Regional District.
They were concerned with recent SRD actions and what this could mean to governance in Electoral Area B. They found out they could not speak because it was late, and Cecil Robinson was not surprised in light of when they made the request.
“That was fair enough. We considered that that would be a possibility,” he said. “Strictly speaking, it was a late request.”
The Robinsons immediately went about applying to appear as a delegation at the upcoming board meeting set for Feb. 13. Everything seemed fine when they received an email on Feb. 7, but the following day they received notification they were being denied the opportunity to present a letter.
“It certainly isn’t a question of a late request,” Robinson said.
In the first email, they were informed their submission would be entered as correspondence, which they interpreted to mean they were speaking, but a follow-up message clarified the submission will be considered correspondence because they were not to appear as a delegation due to the SRD policy on delegations.
“When we submitted our application for delegation on Jan. 24 after the SRD board meeting, we were not given the guidelines, nor was there any mention that they existed and we should refer to them in preparing a presentation,” Christine Robinson told the Mirror via email.
Regional district staff confirmed Friday that SRD guidelines state “delegations are not intended to be opportunities for debate, discussion or questioning of the board regarding its policies or decisions.”
According to a Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing spokesperson, local governments set their own bylaws for public input at meetings, adding that while procedures may vary slightly to meet specific circumstances of individual local governments, they typically establish standard rules of procedure, including how a council or board will receive delegations and petitions at meetings.
The Robinsons had hoped to outline their concerns about recent board decisions to leave the Cortes Island advisory planning commission empty and put on hold binding referenda concerning the establishment of first responder service as well as a proposed hall tax. The reason the SRD board is holding off is a recent court petition launched against Area B Director Noba Anderson. (Myrna Kerr, a member of one of the community associations calling for the hall tax, received an e-mail on Feb. 7 similar to the Robinsons’ email, stating the request to appear would be treated as correspondence and not as a delegation.)
This concerns allegations concerning the relationship between donors to a GoFundMe campaign launched to help Anderson’s father Bernie after a fire destroyed his cabin in January 2019. The allegations refer to Anderson, several people who donated to the campaign and a number of community organizations.
The Robinsons also wanted to present a counter petition with their letter in response to the legal petition launched originally by 13, now 14 people on Jan. 2. After this, 196 Cortes residents have launched their own “counter petition” critical of the legal action as well as the SRD’s handling of the matter. More names were then added. (The latest version has grown to roughly 300 names, which includes a copy of the petition at the Gorge Harbour Marina store.)
Referring to the Jan. 2 legal petition, De Clarke, who put together the counter-petition, told the Mirror the SRD’s decision at the meeting last month to delay actions on the two referenda and avoid filling the Cortes advisory planning commission was setting a bad precedent because anyone could bring government actions to a halt by launching a legal case.
“This kind of petition is a very dangerous weapon,” she said, “We’ve got absolutely nothing to hide. Noba Anderson has absolutely nothing to hide…. If this is the future of regional politics, then we’re hooped.”