THE question of how Thornhill residents might choose to be governed is now ready for a detailed study led by a local committee to determine what effects any change might bring about but there is already disagreement as to its membership.
The matter surfaced at a May 25 briefing for city council members attended by elected officials and staffers from the Kitimat-Stikine regional district.
Those at the meeting heard consultant Peter Adams report on the provincially-financed Greater Terrace and Thornhill Governance Study as to three options – have Thornhill remain in the regional district, be incorporated as its own municipality or merge with Terrace.
Adams said the next step is forming a committee of up to 12 people, the number preferred by the provincial government.
He suggested it consist of six or seven Thornhill residents chosen by the regional district and two or three chosen by the city with a chair, a Thornhill resident, jointly selected by the regional district and the city.
A regional district director and a city councillor could also be considered but they would be non-voting members, Adams suggested.
The suggested committee make up was questioned by Terrace city councillor Brian Downie who wanted more city residents included, worrying that Thornhill would then be making decisions affecting the city.
Adams replied that the committee could be made up of half Thornhill people and half city people. “Most of the work is done by the consultant,” he said. “The committee is a sounding board and gives direction to the consultant.”
But Thornhill regional district director Ted Ramsey, a strong advocate of incorporation, didn’t want any city representation on the committee at all. “This is for Thornhill,” he said.
“I made a motion for incorporation, not amalgamation,” added Ramsey of a motion introduced already to the regional district board.
“Thornhill has to make a decision on what it wants to do first, then if it’s amalgamation, then it’s up to you to get residents’ opinions.”
“I don’t want to see three members of the city on the committee. It should be Thornhill whether the province likes it or not — it’s not for the province, it’s for the community of Thornhill.
“At the end of the day, they (Thornhill residents) may vote to do something different,” Ramsey said.
Adams said the typical process is to ask voters the question “do you favour change?”
“It is yes/no to see if people are dissatisfied with being an electoral area, and if they’re not, then it’s irrelevant,” he said.
“If they do, then do they prefer stand alone (incorporation) or amalgamation.”
You don’t want people on the committee who have made up their minds, you want people who are open to what is best for Thornhill and only one option is not good, he added.
“It’s not up to the city to decide if it wants Thornhill to join because Thornhill could say ‘no thank-you,’” said Adams.
He added that it’s unlikely to go to the stage of incorporation or amalgamation right away because people will have questions.
“If it’s truly not a good option, then it will be clear from the study and I think that serves the public well,” he said.
Regional district administrator Bob Marcellin asked if it was better to have Thornhill residents look at the options by themselves and move to the more detailed study later.
Adams said no because the purpose of having the city on the committee is if you only look at the implications of changes on Thornhill and not the city, then you won’t have the whole picture.
Adams said the committee would also be open to public input.
Adams said a next-stage detailed governance study would be a complete and impartial examination of implications of a change in governance compared to the status quo.
Ideally people from the community who have shown an interest but have not decided already which outcome they want would be on the committee, said Adams.
The briefing was held as a city council committee of the whole and no further decision was made. Adams also spoke to the regional district board last Friday.
Initial work already completed examined existing arrangements between Thornhill and the city, including ones in which Thornhill residents contribute to the financing of city recreational and library services.
Although Ramsey wants Thornhill to be its own entity, he’s in favour of those existing arrangements, saying they work well and make financial sense.