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REPORTING · 18th September 2012
Walter McFarlane
Also, Kitimat Council discusses Enbridge Neutrality
Edited 1:30 pm September 18
Mayor Joanne Monaghan was not at the City Council Meeting on Monday, September 17th so there was no good news to report as the Mayor generally opened Council meetings. However, Councillor Corrine Scott, Acting Mayor presented on the Regional District Meeting which took place this past weekend.

“I just wanted to report on the Regional District Stikine meeting which was held on the 14th, last Friday,” said Scott.

She explained the Regional District provided tax exemption to My Mountain Co-Op, which is $4000 a year.

There were six residents of Kitimat who attended the meeting because Margaret Sanou addressed the Regional District on the topic of the Retire in Kitimat Task Force and the importance of the MK Bay Marina to the District of Kitimat and the entire region.

“Her presentation included how important access to water and marina space was to their promotion of Kitimat as a great place to retire. The Region, including Terrace, benefits from promoting Kitimat, as people from Kitimat do a lot of their shopping in Terrace. A suggestion was made that the Regional District of Kitimat Stikine look into a two tiered funding scheme, charging a lower fee for local residents, and/or seniors, and a higher fee for users out of the region. That was presented and no decision was made,” said Scott.

There was also a motion for the Regional District to oppose the Enbridge Northern Gateway Pipeline. Scott spoke to the memo from the District of Kitimat Council to support the Joint Review Process and remain neutral. The District of Stewart agreed with the memo.

She stated there was a misunderstanding when she voted against the motion. People thought she did not remain neutral by opposing the motion. Scott explained not voting on the motion was considered an affirmative vote. She voted against the motion to remain in favour of neutrality.

This lead into a discussion brought forward by Councillor Phil Germuth later in the meeting under new business.

“I’ve had many concerns about what neutrality means and how we deal with it as Councillors. I would like to clarify what neutrality means to me as a Councillor for the District of Kitimat. I campaigned on a promise to be more open to our citizens and I feel at odds with how neutrality could affect my promise and beliefs,” said Germuth.

He expressed what neutrality means, to him. Germuth stated he could not vote for or against anything which had to do with the Enbridge Pipeline. However, he wanted to know what he, as a Councillor, could say about the pipeline or the project. He consulted with George Cuff, who is an advisor and consultant with all levels of government. He asked Cuff what neutrality means.

“His answer back to me was: ‘1: The Mayor is expected to always speak the view of Council as reflected in its motions. 2: Council’s view/opinion is only really known by its current policies and/or most recent Motion on the topic. 3: Councillors are entitled to speak their opinions both before and after the motion of Council. Preferably, Councillors will always preface their remarks by accepting that the democratic will is, as expressed by Council’s resolutions that they will not be doing anything to undercut those resolutions as duly passed by a majority of Council. They can however, speak their opinion which may be counter to the current policy,’” said Germuth.

He stated the Councillors could speak their opinions despite Council’s neutrality. He respects the Councillors and has no concerns the opinions will be attacked because of who the person is.

“All Neutrality really means to me is that as a group, we have not yet made a decision on this project. As from the beginning however, my views have not changed. I am not in support of the Northern Gateway Enbridge Project,” said Germuth.

Councillor Mario Feldhoff stated he is standing by the promises he made in the 2011 election. Neutrality is respecting the Joint Review Process. He accused other Councillors of abusing the process by going down to the UBCM and not participating in a vote to oppose the project.

“I think we should continue to maintain our position of respecting the neutral position of the Joint Review Panel and if that should change, we should entertain another motion at some point in time and put into the mix the whole potential for a 13 billion dollar refinery and whether that may or may not change individual Councillor’s view points,” said Feldhoff.

He stated he did not have a problem defending his definition of neutrality.

Councillor Rob Goffinet explained he had been a part of the debate on neutrality because at the UBCM, he and the other delegate from Kitimat, former Councillor Randy Halyk had not been advised on what to say on the motion put forward by Queen Charlotte Village to oppose Tankers and the Pipeline. The two of them decided not to say “yay or nay”, refraining from taking any position, considering this the appropriate neutral stance.

“We would abstain from a vote which was our method of showing neutrality. On a convention floor, you can do that. In a duly constituted meeting such as what this one is, or the regional district, a Councillor sitting at the decision table makes a decision no matter what they do,” said Goffinet.

He clarified how a Councillor votes in favour (in the affirmative) of a motion by putting their hand up or by abstaining from voting, (leaving their hand down). He said it was different at the UBCM convention in 2010, they could abstain from a vote.

Goffinet also stated they did not get any legal advice. They watched the press and noticed that a national newspaper was watching the councillors prior to the vote. After the vote, the newspaper interviewed them about the vote and if they had voted one way or the other, they would have been interpreted of being in favour or against.

“We had the freedom and the ability to make that decision on the floor of the convention,” said Goffinet. “Neutrality is a hard thing to carry out.”

He sympathized with the decision which Scott had to make at the Regional District this Saturday.

Councillor Corrine Scott stated she appreciated the Councillors speaking about what neutrality means to them. She suggested discussing this at a Committee of the Whole so they can combine their statements into a single statement about neutrality.

“When we’re asked to vote on a motion that is directly opposing the Kitimat stance, we have to vote no. That doesn’t mean we’re not neutral,” said Scott.
VOTING
Comment by LINDA HALYK on 18th September 2012
One should make it clear to all that they are unable to vote due to a conflict and leave the room during the vote.

If you are not in the room they can not say you voted ya or nay, therefore you remain NUETRAL.
Good News, No Mayor Monaghan
Comment by Rory Brown on 18th September 2012
You got it wrong Walter, thats great news. Our councillors keep telling us that they have to stay neutral in regards to the pipeline. Well, if that were true, they would not be publicly telling us "as a councillor I am neutral, but my views have not changed. I do not support the pipeline". If council is neutral, be neutral. Keep your personal views to your self. You are representing the people of Kitimat, and when you make statements like that, it gets printed in newspapers for all to see. Now if you truly want to represent the people's support/no support of the pipeline, lets vote on it. Not a pole, but a real vote.
Accordingto the Municipal Act
Comment by Thomas Campbell on 18th September 2012
21 (3) Unless otherwise specified in a policy, a member of the council who fails or refuses to vote on a question before the council is deemed to have voted in the negative.

"UNLESS OTHERWISE SPECIFIED IN A POLICY...." So for example if a municipality had a policy that was say neutral on a matter I suppose that would be permission for that councilor to abstain....
There was good news..
Comment by Apocalypse Now on 18th September 2012
The good news was the mayor wasn't there to cut people off.