When they didn’t listen, we had to act

Terrace resident Diana Penner speaks for the community advocacy group Residents Advocating for a Sustainable Inclusive Environment

Residents Advocating for a Sustainable Inclusive Environment (RAfaSIE) is a community advocacy group that was formed when local decision makers ignored issues affecting taxpayers.

After countless letters, petitions and presentations to both the Kitimat-Stikine regional district and Terrace city council over the past three years the public felt it was not being heard.

Many claimed there was a lack of transparency and dysfunction in our governing bodies. Several groups came forward, including RAfaSIE but regardless of the size of the group, our MLA, councillors and directors ignored many issues and concerns.  RAfaSIE is asking the public to raise their voices to demand respectful, representative governance of our resources, environment and tax paying dollars.

The issue most prevalent is the local waste plan for the Terrace region. RAfaSIE has identified many shortfalls to recycling, diversion and dumping plans for the proposed Thornhill landfill transfer site and proposed new landfill at Onion Lake flats – referred incorrectly as the Forceman Ridge landfill site.

RAfaSIE has experienced public consultation meetings that were not consultative but instead were informative of what the regional district and city determined were ‘best” for our region. But were they? Many concerns and questions from the public were left unheard or unanswered.

RAfaSIE brought the regional district a petition indicating overwhelming support for recycling, re-use and diversion of waste in the region. Wearing “YES we CAN” t-shirts at another presentation, we indicated our desire to support and work with the district in a community-based plan to produce a value added industry around waste re-use and a one-stop re-cycling facility.

RAfaSIE has read through the engineering reports from the regional district and has identified, a list of public concerns within the current proposal, we made suggestions to deal with those concerns, which were ignored by the regional district  Local Area C Directors advocating for support of taxpayers rights of involvement were out-voted by other  area directors and were rendered useless, as the board refused to even second, motions made by the local representatives to the greater Terrace area.

RAfaSIE questioned the environmental concerns and the heavy tax implications proposed in building a new landfill at Onion Lake Flats, but these concerns have not been adequately addressed. Millions of dollars have already been spent on what is called siting projects over the past 20 years by the regional district. The rationale for continuing with the proposed Forceman Ridge landfill project is that it is a done deal. RAfaSIE disagrees.

We cannot justify bad decisions with that comment when we know we can do better. We cannot risk environmental damage to the Lakelse watershed, nor to Onion or Clearwater Lakes, nor to the creeks nearby.

We cannot condone misrepresentative statements from the regional district such as the Terrace and Thornhill landfills are closing, and then keep open the Thornhill landfill and rename it a transfer site. We cannot condone unprecedented spending by the regional district under the pretense that the public has no right to say no.

Taxpayers are the funders, without us there is no salary for any politician, or their staff. We are not their cash cows! Time for us all to stand up and say “hold on” and demand that our politicians consult us and then spend our money responsibly. Write a letter, send an email, attend a budget meeting or board meeting and hold accountable the people who are your representatives.  RAfaSIE is you and we need more of you to be heard through your attendance and involvement.

Let’s start this week. RAfaSIE asks the public to join us at the regional district finance meeting where plans to borrow $14.5 million for refuse site projects will be voted on. See you at the regional district office on Lazelle Ave. Feb. 20, 2015, at 5:00 pm. Let’s listen and talk together.

Diana Penner speaks for RAfaSIE.