An over 20 year process has reached a milestone this week as Minister of Community, Sport and Cultural Development Bill Bennett announced Tuesday that Cabinet has approved the incorporation of Jumbo as a mountain resort municipality.
At the same time, Bennett appointed an interim Council for the new municipality.
The Regional District of East Kootenay requested that the B.C. government incorporate Jumbo as a mountain resort municipality in 2009, after a very close vote.
Columbia River Revelstoke MLA Norm Macdonald, representative for the riding in which the new municipality has been created, calls the designation a slap in the face for Kootenay residents.
“It’s exceedingly poor legislation to set up a community with a non-elected local government making land use decisions,” Macdonald said. “They are acting as a real elected government in a place that has no residents. What Bill Bennett has done is give a group of BC Liberal insiders property rights.
“I’ve not spoken to anyone outside the BC Liberal party who thinks that this legislation makes sense. To create a town where there are no residents, to appoint a council that may never face election, and do this with no real possibility that a resort will be built is ridiculous. But a small group of Jumbo supporters are getting their way on this one: transferring control of public lands into private hands.”
Macdonald particularly questions why the designation would be made when the developer has not been able to find an investor in over a decade.
“They do not have investors. What today’s decision does is simply imperil the taxpayers of British Columbia for no public good.”
However, BC Liberal candidate for this riding, Doug Clovechok says his guess is the proponent will move ahead fairly quickly.
“The process has got to the point now where the developer has all the opportunity to push it forward. The proponent has waited 20 years. My guess is now they won’t be sitting on their hands. My guess is they will proceed right away.
“If they don’t, the government has the ability to rescind the Resort Municipality status, based on performance.”
Environmental group Wildsight says it is nothing more than a land grab.
“A population of zero and a Council of three. This decision flies in the face of democratic land-use decisions, overwhelming public opposition, grizzly bear science, First Nations spiritual claims and opposition from the Union of BC Municipalities (UBCM),” said Robyn Duncan, Program Manager.
Duncan points out that even the Union of BC Municipalities resolved in September 2012 that municipalities should have an elected Mayor and Council and have a permanent population of at least 200.
However, Clovechok bristles at the suggestion that the process was undemocratic.
“This whole process is democratic. The local government, the RDEK, voted on it — that a Resort Municipality should be in the hands of the province. The Opposition and Norm Macdonald had the opportunity in the Legislature to express their views. They lost.
“People have to understand it was a democratic process, despite what the NDP is saying.”
Macdonald says that the RDEK board was very divided.
“We all know the arm twisting and deal making that went on with that decision,” he said. “The people of the Columbia Valley were always clear about their thoughts on Jumbo. There are proper ways to do these projects. When I was Mayor of Golden we had a referendum on the Kicking Horse development.
“This is just a recipe for more conflict and will cost the taxpayers money. Bill Bennett has put so much political capital in this. It’s a political loser. There is something I just don’t understand. There are pieces missing. I just don’t get it.”
Clovechok says this is an opportunity to have an iconic international resort in this region.
“I look forward to being the MLA who cuts the ribbon,” he said.
The B.C. Chamber of Commerce supports the decision.
“It is good to see BC sending a clear signal that economically critical projects can ultimately be dealt with through an expeditious and balanced process, and I very much hope that this becomes the start of a trend,” said President John Winter.
The Jumbo Creek Conservation Society says that the provincial government has created a banana republic in the Jumbo Valley.