Jumbo Municipality Sets a Very Dangerous Precedent

If there is a mayor in the woods and nobody elected him is he still a mayor? – unknown

I am not a journalist. You would have realized that after my fourth grammatical typo anyway, but I wanted to tell you ahead of time. If this article manages to tickle at your empathy bone you’re going to question me as a source and I don’t want you to disregard what I have to say.

I have made no qualms about my position of B.C.’s oldest “newest resort”. In fact if you go to my Facebook page, you’ll find Jumbo Wild inserted into my name, peppering all my half-hearted Facebook jokes with a none-too-subtle reminder of my position. I am telling you this because the validity of Jumbo from an environmental stand point isn’t what this is about. Jumbo is a story in the process of being told. It is a story about the powers of government versus the powers of the people. It is a story of democracy being hijacked.

For me, it was always an easy ‘no’ to the proposition of a multi-million dollar massive resort 45 minutes west of Panorama Resort ski hill. With about 10 ski hills within three hours, most of which are losing money, another resort seemed unnecessary. I was fortunate enough to grow up in that valley and spent more time than I can remember near, on top of, and, one unfortunate Thanksgiving, underneath those mountains.  Those mountains are perfect. I could never understand why people would want to change them.  Alternatively, for many of my blue collar friends Jumbo Resort would mean jobs, food on the table and bigger tires on their trucks so when they opposed me I could hardly fault them.

Recently however, Jumbo Mountain Resort took a bizarre turn which has changed the whole scope of my opposition.  After damming environmental reports and twenty plus years of staunch opposition from tenacious residents, a few celebrities, environmental agencies and aboriginal groups, the interest from foreign investors began to dry up. There were just too many unknowns and too much risk. That all changed on February 19 when Jumbo Municipality was created, a town which currently boasts a population of zero managed by appointed (not democratically elected) mayor Greg Deck and council-members Nancy Hugunin and Steve Ostrande.

Supporters of the resort will say that this is not the first time this has happened and point to Whistler, Sun Peaks and Tumbler Ridge which all followed a similar path to development.  I looked into all three and that simply isn’t the case. Tumbler Ridge was initially settled in 1920 and built as a mining town in 1981, a move largely supported by locals. It was also never classified as a ‘resort municipality’.  Whistler had some established infrastructure with 4 mills already operating in the area and Sun Peaks, which became a municipality in 2010, has been skied since 1962. Most importantly, none were nearly as contentious or controversial among locals. According to a survey on The Valley Echo’s (the local paper) website, 94 per cent of those polled agreed the establishment of the Jumbo Municipality was unconstitutional. If it wasn’t the objective of the provincial government to bypass the locals, it certainly was a favorable outcome.

There is hope though and a good deal of it. Three major options could sidetrack the resort once more.

  1. The Ktunaxa (Two-na-hah) Nation lawsuit: Jumbo resort will be built in a ‘profoundly sacred area’ of the Ktunaxa nation. They claim the government has a legal obligation to consult and accommodate them regarding issues affecting their territories and thus plans to develop the resort are illegal.
  2.  The West Kootenay Eco Society’s lawsuit: On the last day of Spring 2012, the provincial government added a section to Bill 41 which removed the requirement of a population for a municipality. West Kootenay’s suit is claiming common law (past actions) indicate municipalities governing bodies are a democratic institution created for a public purpose. As a result, a municipality which furthers a private interest with no population is not legally a municipality.
  3. The NDP are elected: The NDP are the only major political party whom have publicly voiced their opposition to Jumbo. “The New Democrat’s position on the proposed Jumbo Glacier Resort is unequivocal; it should not proceed. Kootenay residents have been very clear. The proposal does not make economic or environmental sense,” Dix stated.

It is important to understand that none of these methods are guaranteed to stop the development of Jumbo Resort. They  are just the tools which Jumbo opponents currently wield after 20+ years of opposition. This time though, they may just be enough. By October of 2014, Jumbo Resort has to of made ‘significant progress’. Unfortunately, no one really knows what qualifies as significant progress but if they don’t achieve this hazy watermark they are required to reapply  for their environmental assessment approval, which could kill the project for good.

There are many factors to the Jumbo position that are largely subjective. Do we need another resort?  Would it be successful? What would be the economic impact? What is the impact on the environment and wild life? These issues are complex and I don’t consider myself an authority on any of them. What I do feel qualified to comment on is democracy and this isn’t it.

If you want to find out how to best support the Jumbo Wild Cause check out www.keepitwild.ca. There is lots we can do on a local level so if you think this is a dodgy move make sure your MP knows where you stand. 

This article was written and researched by Daniel Eberhard. Connect with Daniel on Twitter @danno_go or on my personal website.

Feature Image Photo Courtesy: Ecosociety

Jumbo Pill Photo Courtesy: Keep It Wild

Poll Image Photo Courtesy: The Valley Echo

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