AN ATTEMPT to have a referendum to decide if Forceman Ridge on Hwy37 South should be the location for a new landfill was defeated at the Oct. 19 Kitimat-Stikine regional district meeting.
The vote, 6-5 against the idea of having a referendum, took place after some heated discusion over the Forceman Ridge location, a controversial central point in the regional district’s overall plan to reduce the amount of material that’s thrown away.
Director Doug McLeod, who represents the rural area that takes in Forceman Ridge, introduced what’s called an alternate approval process.
It requires either a poll or for electors to be contacted for their opinion if there should be a referendum on Forceman Ridge.
Groups and individuals have criticized the location, saying contaminants will leach into the surrounding countryside, eventually reaching Lakelse Lake.
There has been no public engagement, which McLeod said is wanted and would bedemocratic.
Director Ted Ramsey, who represents Thornhill, seconded McLeod’s motion.
Bruce Bidgood, a City of Terrace representative, asked how much the alternate proposal would cost if it went through and there was a referendum as sought by the public.
Regional District of Kitimat-Stikine administrator Bob Marcellin said a referendum or plebiscite could cost $10,000 to $15,000.
Ten per cent of electors would have to vote in favour of a referendum for it to be put in place.
Directors were told the first issue was to determine who the electors are, which is difficult when you have residents and non-resident electors.
An ad letting people know about the vote could be published in a newspaper and could include a cut out ballot for people to send in, said Kitimat councillor Corinne Scott.
Marcellin said it wasn’t that easy as only electors could receive a ballot to vote on a referendum.
He clarified that the number of electors is not the same as the number of residents listed on the most recent census.
Hazelton mayor Alice Maitland said even if someone could fill out a ballot in the paper and send it in, someone at the regional district would have to know who the voters are and with so many electoral areas and two municipalities, it wouldn’t be easy.
Bidgood said there was a potential bias too as people with “activist leanings” would reply to the ballot – those who are strongly in favour or strongly opposed would respond but the silent majority wouldn’t necessarily do that.
And for everyone to see the ballot, it would have to be at election time so it’s guaranteed that everyone will see it.
Director Dave Brocklebank of Telegraph Creek reminded the board that not everyone has media access, meaning someone would have to go out to tell people about it, which would add more expenses.
McLeod agreed money would have to be spent but said that the board has spent money on other things, such as lawyers, and there wasn’t any discussion on that. “Here is a matter [where we] can consult the public with consequences,” he said.
At a meeting on Forceman Ridge this past May, McLeod took a poll of people at the door, and out of the 100 people or so that came, only five agreed with Forceman Ridge. “Let’s ask the public for their opinion even though it’s difficult. We’ve done difficult tasks in the past, let’s do it.”
Voting against McLeod’s plan were Kitimat councillor Corinne Scott, New Hazelton mayor Gail Lowry, Stewart councillor Billie-Ann Belcher, Terrace mayor Dave Pernarowski, city councillor Bruce Bidgood and Hazelton mayor Alice Maitland.
Voting in favour were Telegraph Creek director Dave Brocklebank, area around Terrace director Doug McLeod, Thornhill director Ted Ramsey and Dease Lake alternate director Joey Waite.
Nass Valley director Harry Nyce, as board chair, did not vote.
Of about 25 audience members who came out to hear what McLeod had to say, and support his idea, most left at this point and one person was heard to remark “What a sham.”
The overall plan is to close the city’s Kalum Lake Road landfill and turn the Thornhill landfill into a transfer station. Recycling would be emphasized.