By Brian Lawrence
Jason Louie has been re-elected to a third term as chief of the Lower Kootenay Band (LKB), topping the polls with 48 votes in an election period that ended Nov. 30. He is joined by returning Coun. Sandra Luke, who placed second with 39 votes.
A tie, however, of 38 votes each for Wayne Louie and Robert Louie Sr., Chief Louie’s father, has left a third seat to be decided. Election day results indicated that Robert Louie conceded to Wayne, while a press release from Robert Louie stated that Wayne Louie declined the seat. A call to electoral officer Hugh Taylor to officially confirm a concession has not yet been returned.
Behind the Louies and Luke on the ballots were Carol Louie (31 votes), Eleanor George (27) and Doreen White (18).
For Chief Louie, his re-election is an opportunity to guide the LKB toward self-sufficiency, through the purchases of Ainsworth Hot Springs and Morris Flowers, and other business ventures.
“We’re always thinking of the membership, at present, and into the future,” he said.
That future includes the construction of a 12,000-square-foot health and administration building, partially funded by the First Nations Health Authority, starting in 2019, and he’s looking forward to a referendum that would allow the band to proceed with the construction of a drug and alcohol treatment centre. Both projects could unite the members in a common goal.
“The Lower Kootenay Band is one big family, one that’s been very disconnected for some time,” Chief Louie said.
Some of the disconnection included a legal challenge that resulted in a 2015 BC Court of Appeal decision in which Chief Louie and Luke, among others, were ordered to repay a one-time $5,000 bonus approved by the council of the day, while Chief Louie was a councillor. Following this 2015 decision, Wayne Louie, Robert Louie Sr. and Rob Louie Jr. initiated an attempt to remove Chief Louie and Luke from office. This ultimately led to arbitrator Marko Vesely reaffirming his decision in September not to require them to step down from council.
Robert Louie Sr. was an advisor to the plaintiffs in these legal challenges.
“I was part of that court case to make a point and to make some good law,” he said in a press release this week. “It wasn’t personal.”
He added in the press release that he will be assisted on an ad hoc basis by Rob Louie Jr. and is looking forward to working for the members of the LKB.
“I don’t speak with one voice with the band council,” he said in the release. “Rather, I am looking to give a voice back to the band members. I am here to serve them.”
Originally scheduled for Nov. 22, the election was delayed until Nov. 30 because self-addressed, stamped envelopes weren’t included in the original mail-in ballot package. The council’s staggered elections mean that two other council seats, held by Josie Fullarton and Jared Basil, aren’t up for re-election until 2020.