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COMMENTARY · 7th January 2010
Walter McFarlane
With out further ado, the #1 selection for our top five events in 2009 is theme of Kitimat City Council Dysfunction. The particular event is when all heck broke loose on August 24th but the dysfunction was clearly visible throughout the year.

2009 saw the start of a new City Council. The dysfunction was evident from the first meeting in January and carried into the second to last public meeting in December. The problem is, everyone has a different opinion and no one person's opinion is more right than anyone else’s. Life is more than just right and wrong. There are many sides to every story.

Now you, the reader are going to laugh after reading this. “How is this more relevant than the potential closure of Euorcan?” is the question that is probably on your mind. The thing is, this is a very serious issue for several reasons.

The topic of power sales is a touchy subject in the community. The argument from one side of the story is that Alcan was given a resource to smelt aluminum and create jobs. The argument from the other side is that one should not bite the hand that feeds it and Alcan should be able to use the power how ever it wants.

It was the Kitimat City Council and Save the Northwest that brought the issue to light and it was locally opposed by the Concerned Citizens. In the Council Chambers in 2009, the role of Saving the Northwest went to Councillor Gerd Gottschling while the role of Concerned Citizen went to Councillor Richard McLaren and played out much like one of those old Spy vs. Spy comics.

This led to chaos in the Council Chambers as each Councillor played their cards and the community got involved in the process. Councillor McLaren argued on behalf of his own expertise and understanding of the issues while Councillor Gottschling argued on behalf of his heart and the future of the community.

The Council Meeting on the 24th became a clearing house as members of both Save the Northwest and the Concerned Citizens took the stand and stole the council meeting. It was a sad day for Kitimat. At the next meeting, Mayor Monaghan called for peace. Despite this, McLaren still had to get his last jab into Gottschling as he attacked both Gottschling and the Kitimat and Terrace Dailies on the 26th of October. Gottschling promised a response but it never happened.

It took Eurocan’s announcement for the issue to effectively work itself out. It petered out in November on a cliff-hanger that was never really resolved and may never truly be resolved. Of course, the ordeal does not make several council members such as Richard McLaren, who has been caught in a lie or Gerd Gottschling, who lost his temper on camera look good in the public eye.

“Caught in a Lie?” you ask. The subject matter is not important but if you must know, the information is found here and here.

One far reaching effect is that it showed a lack of leadership skills from several of the councillors including some of those outside the debate. Some motions made were contradictory to events of the past or to the motion being made itself. Even Richard McLaren admitted in his blog that community was losing faith in the council’s ability to lead.

Another far reaching effect of this event was that Mayor Joanne Monaghan declared peace in the council and laid out some guidelines which she has stuck too. The down side of this is that people used to come to council to speak, not only if they disagreed with something that the council had done but also if they wanted to alert the council to issues in the community. Since September 14th, this has not happened. Kitimat has moved from one extreme of the spectrum to the other.

Now the community moves into 2010. We have turbulent waters ahead of us and we are going to need leaders who can make the difficult decisions to steer the community. We need leaders who can debate an issue rather than bicker about who is right, and who can look at the bigger picture.

We at the Kitimat Daily would like to see Councillor Gerd Gottschling and Councillor Richard McLaren work things out in a manner that does not involve a controversial news story. We also hope to see the Council look at an issue from as many angles as they can and put the good of the community ahead of the next election.

Come back on Friday when we go through the Year in Review for November. December will go up after the weekend and a conclusion shortly after that.

Do you wish to comment on any of our selections for the Year in Review interludes? Below is the place to do so and anonymous comments relating to any of the interludes will be permitted. Do you have your own top five? Post it below but be sure to put your name to it.