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REPORTING · 22nd January 2014
Walter McFarlane
It was Monday, January 20th. Kitimat City Council had seen a number of presentations requesting them to change the wording of the Plebiscite question. Councillor Corinne Scott had a motion scheduled for rescinding the question and writing a new one. It was seconded by Councillor Phil Germuth.

“At the Committee of the Whole meeting on January 13th, Council was discussing the details of having a plebiscite. A motion was put forward with suggested wording for the plebiscite question. The question was somewhat lengthy but in my opinion was a good question. However, Councillor Goffinet made a valid statement, that the plebiscite question should be short and to the point. With the amount of discussion around the entire issue, I felt when the vote was called and passed by a simple majority that it should be readdressed,” said Scott.

Scott told the Council that a motion passed, according to Robert’s Rules of Order, another motion that raises the same question cannot be brought up again at the same meeting. However, after reflection or because they learn something new, they can decide maybe they have done something they should not have done or could have done differently.

She stated Council has been hearing about this for the past week and there were a number of people who were voicing their concerns earlier in the meeting.

Councillor Phil Germuth agreed, as having the 209 conditions as a part of the motion could lead to inaccurate results. He stated both people in support or opposition to the project may not agree with 209 conditions.

“On January 14th, Enbridge Executive Vice President Janet Holder spoke to the Prince George Chamber of Commerce, referencing the Joint Review Panel Report, and I quote: ‘Number one is understanding all those 209 conditions. Probably half of them are ones we made commitments on so we understand those. But, the other ones we still have to go through and determine what that means.’” So I ask, how does any member of Council expect our citizens to understand all 209 conditions when it is admitted that even Enbridge does not comprehend the meaning of those conditions,” said Germuth.

Germuth pointed out there are many citizens of Kitimat who have English as their second language. There are many who have English as their first language. “A question this complex will have confusion regardless of whether English is your first and second language,” said Germuth.

He stated the question had to be clear and concise. Council had the ability to rescind the motion and they should do it. The gallery applauded.

Councillor Rob Goffinet expressed he could see no reason why Council would want to be unclear on an election ballot. He explained a ballot had to be as clear to both sides as possible.

“We have heard concerns and we have discussed this ourselves over the week, and we know the debate of last week. By reconsidering and rescinding, we may in our minds wonder, we’ve opened a can of worms, where do we go from here. I would direct all of my colleagues, to the briefing document we had in front of us, but we did not get briefed on before we voted, which was the recommendation from the economic development officer, that the first option, on this ballot, was, quote: Are you in favour of the Enbridge Northern Gateway Project, yes or no,” said Goffinet.

Mayor Joanne Monaghan stated the first option put before Council was to do a survey.

Councillor Mario Feldhoff stated he was opposed to changing the wording.

“I’ve listened carefully tonight and some of the comments made will impact my discussion on an item later on in the agenda. On January 6th, after much debate concerning different possible approaches for surveying the community, we decided upon a Plebiscite,” said Feldhoff. “Among the approaches not supported was a statistically valid approach, to survey the community. Then on January 13th, we had a very intensive debate concerning the wording of the plebiscite. We decided upon the wording of one question and directed staff to provide additional suggested wording on the additional questions.”

He stated the District Staff has spent time on this which would be better spent looking into the affordable housing issue. Feldhoff then reminded Scott she chose to look at an issue which was not on the agenda on January 13th, what Council will do with the answer they get from the Plebiscite. He said this is a discussion they should have later, when they reflect on the results of the Plebiscite and voter turnout.

“I see no need to rescind our previous question, as it stands. Later in the agenda, we have the opportunity to discuss the wording of possible plebiscite questions, as we have previously directed staff to report on,” said Feldhoff.

He wanted to decide upon the rescinding motion first before moving forward.

“Personally, I don’t see compelling arguments for rescinding what we previously decided upon, albeit, not unanimously,” said Feldhoff. “I support a principled and disciplined approach to determine the remaining unanswered aspects of the Plebiscite.”

Germuth reminded Council the issue was the wording and accused him of going off topic into other realms of discussion. He stated Staff put a lot of time into the wording, while Council did not. They did not discuss the simple question. He hoped Council will look at the facts, and again stated Enbridge does not understand the meaning of all the conditions.

Goffinet went through the staff notes on the Plebiscite. Councillor Edwin Empinado stated this was not about the technicalities. He went over the details of the last couple of meetings. He said he did not want to divide the community; he wanted the community to come and create the questions.

“This issue has been very close. It could be divisive in our community. There are people who come in here who are for and I thank those who have certain stand and opinion. I thank them for coming in and bringing those to the table,” said Empinado.

He said he was the only one who wanted the questions to be formulated by the community. He explained there are different levels of government in Canada and different rules they have to follow. He did not want to create controversy by going beyond their role. He expressed he was thinking of both sides of the issue. He thought Council was better off spending time on local issues.

Councillor Mary Murphy stated this was not supposed to be a referendum, just a survey. She stated she read through it once, while Germuth read through it three times. “Others say it’s complicated and they don’t understand, and if they don’t agree with one line, then they would have to vote against it. I truly believe that everybody has already made up their mind and they’re going to vote yes or their going to vote no, and it’s pretty simple, when we put that in front of them,” said Murphy.

Mayor Joanne Monaghan stated she will not support the motion either. “It’s the fact that the rescinding of a motion bothers me because I think it sets a big precedent that whenever we do something, it can always come back and be rescinded over and over and over again. However, I would be in favour of looking at the wording and discussing the wording that is being used,” said Monaghan.

Goffinet asked if they could just reconsider the wording. He said the intention of the motion was to look at the wording which was too complex, convoluted and will trigger a negative reaction from the public because they were not clear enough in their wording. He wanted wording which did not make one side or the other say they were making it unclear. The people need to know their yes means a yes and their no means a no.

Monaghan told him she was taken out of context. She repeated herself. Germuth expressed they have to rescind before they could look at the wording, which is what the Mayor wanted to do. Monaghan said she did not want this to become precedent. Germuth reminded her the Councillors know the rules of engagement and have not done this for two years. This is the first motion to reconsider.

“It may start it though,” said Monaghan.

Germuth stated he respected the other Councillors enough that it would not make it a precedent.

Feldhoff stated they have the option to pose additional questions, whether they choose to do it or not. He expressed he believes his question addresses the JRP and Enbridge. “It is a lengthy question, but it is a good question,” said Feldhoff.

Murphy stated this was the same debate as Council had a week ago. They should call the question.

Scott stated, for clarification, Council has the option to have a motion to reconsider. She stated they can only reconsider the wording at a meeting where the motion is made. Now they have to rescind the motion before they can change the wording. She stated both her and Feldhoff like the question, but, upon reflection, she thought it might not be a good question to ask if people are for or against the Enbridge Pipeline.

The motion was called but the results were predictable. After the community came forward and told Council they picked the wrong wording, and over half an hour of discussion, the motion was called and it failed. Councillors Germuth, Goffinet and Scott were in favour, Empinado, Feldhoff, Monaghan and Murphy were opposed.

The motion may not be recinded but there were other Plebiscite questions to consider... and an hour's worth of debating left for council to waste.
mayor and her three stooges
Comment by J.Cruijff on 23rd January 2014
Since when is a plebiscite a survey, only in Kitimat.
Normally it is a binding vote for citizens to consider a topic.
When one councillor will not reconsider his motion because he invented the language and another saying it is just a survey (why not call it that) and the third one got out of bed the wrong way, is it any wonder people are getting upset.
Then there is the mayor, a motion to reconsider is not! setting any precedents, why not read the rules governing meetings Roberts Rules comes to mind.
Time for the mayor to think seriously about retirement she is making Kitimat the laughing stock of the Northwest.
Kudos to councillors Scott,Germuth and Goffinet for trying to rectify this situation.
Comment by Another Observer on 23rd January 2014
The reason this plebiscite is going forward is simply to allow the more cowardly members of council to have a chance to change there stance to suit their chances at re election in November.

If the result of the plebiscite is a No vote just watch how fast certain councillors who are clearly in support of the pipeline will suddenly have a change of heart and claim they were always against the pipeline.

Do not be taken in by liars again and dont reward cowards in November.
Council Goes into Reruns
Comment by An observer on 22nd January 2014
I don't normally watch the council meetings, but tuned in on Monday Night.
I applaud the many citizens of Kitimat who obviously spent much time and effort to prepare and present their questions to council in a professional, respectful manner. Well done!
I wish I could say the same for some of councils responses. Shocking!
Thank you to the council members who listened to the people's questions and requests at the meeting and tried to make a change. I am disappointed in the Mayor and other council members whom ignored the voices of so many, including their own council members. Wow...sent a clear message to me.
The question still remains: Why are we doing this plebiscite (survey) if we don't know/or haven't decided what we plan to do with the results? A big waste of time and money as if the meeting on Monday night is any indication on how it will be dealt with , I think we know the answer.