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Jumbo not an issue, new Columbia Basin Trust chair says
The new chair of the Columbia Basin Trust wears a Jumbo-sized hat — but insists it shouldn’t be a problem.
Greg Deck says his appointment as mayor of Jumbo Glacier Resort, which officially becomes a mountain resort municipality next month, elicited “some groans” when he informed his fellow Trust directors.
“Probably some unparliamentary language came out,” he said in an interview. “They quite reasonably asked ‘Why are you doing this?’“
Deck answers that question like this: he was mayor of Radium Hot Springs, another municipality focused on tourism, from its incorporation in 1990 until 2008. That experience — as well as the fact his community was on record as a supporter of the proposed Jumbo resort — led the province to approach him.
“[They asked] ‘Would you be willing to put those areas of expertise to work to make sure this is as successful as possible?’ I can’t imagine anybody, proponent or foe, wants to see it done badly. That’s the worst of all possible worlds.”
Deck said it was hard to say no, but he knew it would challenge his position with the Trust, on whose board he’s served since its inception in 1995. He was vice-chair until this month, when he took over from retiring chair Garry Merkel.
Deck said before the Jumbo appointment became public, he explained the situation to the board, and left the room to let them discuss it. He returned to find he had convinced them he could do both.
“It was pretty much unanimous, as I understand it. [They said] ‘The things that make you valuable for the province to appoint you to that other job are also the things that make you valuable for us here.’“
Even so, he expects them to watch closely to ensure no damage is done to the Trust — just as he promises to be extra diligent about avoiding conflicts. “I’m going to be even more careful about making sure the two are kept separate because of the controversy that surrounds this municipality,” he says.
(The creation of the Jumbo municipality in the Purcell Mountains has been criticized because it has no citizens and isn’t likely to for some time.)
Deck adds there is no room at the Trust board for people who aren’t regional thinkers anyway, and some Radium residents feel that as mayor he didn’t do enough to get them their slice of the pie, ”but that’s not how we work.”
Deck made his first appearance as Columbia Basin Trust chair before the Regional District of Central Kootenay board last week, where Nelson city councillor Donna Macdonald raised the issue of his position with Jumbo.
Deck said he had no problem addressing it, and was relieved that while it wasn’t ignored, neither was it dwelled upon. “We were able to still get our message out about the Trust without people having a hard time listening.”
CONSULTATION IN TRUST’S GENES
Deck also says he’s fine with the idea of a broad consultation on the future of the Trust and its joint venture partner Columbia Power Corporation as suggested by former Nelson-Creston MLA Corky Evans and former Trust chair Josh Smienk.
“This organization, I think, does a greater amount of consultation than almost anybody,” he says. “That’s how we operate. It’s in our DNA.”
Deck says he takes seriously suggestions from the regional districts and First Nations involved in the Trust’s formation, but hopes any wide consultation isn’t restricted to power investments.
“A long range consultative exercise like this takes up an awful lot of people’s time — our time and the time of the participants,” he says. “That doesn’t mean it’s not important, but we should get the very most out of it.”
Columbia Power president Jane Bird says she wouldn’t object to such a consultation either, but would first like to complete the corporation’s current process, seeking feedback on what project they should tackle once the Waneta expansion wraps up in 2015.
Evans and Smienk called for a symposium to discuss the next stages of the crown corporations’ existence.