Editor: Direct democracy and representative democracy are two different things. An example of where direct democracy has been used in the Township is the referendum held in 1988, which prevented the building of the Walnut Grove Recreation Centre. Township residents outside of Walnut Grove decided they didn’t want to pay for something they were not going to use. It took the will of council to build the rec centre and pool many years later. There are reasons why sometimes the majority point of view is not necessarily the best point of view for those most concerned or for those in the minority.
Representative democracy means we elect people who represent us in decision making. It does not mean that the those who yell the loudest get their way. It should not mean that the majority opinion always gets its way. It means that we elect people who we think are able to do a good job on our behalf. I may not agree with how each incumbent has voted on every issue, but I do think that, for the most part, they have made an effort to consider the applications before them and they support or deny the applications based on reasons they think are relevant.
I attended the Unelection all-candidates meeting and was generally disappointed by the level of questions. For example: the candidates could have been asked why they did or did not support the Coulter Berry building. That at least would have elucidated their reasons and thinking on the matter. Instead they were asked “would you (or did you) vote for Coulter Berry” in order that, it seemed given the cheers that went up, those who were vehemently opposed to the development could make the simplistic determination of whether a particular person was worthy of their vote. I, for one, hope to hear candidates’ reasons for their decisions, before I decide if their thinking is something I can or cannot endorse.
The argument still being levelled against Coulter Berry is that the Heritage Alteration Permit allowed variances that did not comply with the Official Community Plan. That issue went to court and Langley Township won on appeal, after a loss at the Supreme Court level.
The only issue that was successful at the trial level was that, in the trial judge’s opinion, the HAP approved for Coulter Berry violated section 972(4)(a) of the Local Government Act by varying use or density of use of the property. The Court of Appeal concluded that the Heritage Alteration Permit did not vary the “use or density of use” and therefore the appropriate approval process was followed.
To continue to claim that the development violates the OCP and is therefore “illegal” shows a lack of understanding of the purpose and the force of OCPs generally, and specifically misstates the situation in the Coulter Berry case. If you don’t like the lack of teeth of OCPs that is something to take up with the provincial government, but I can almost guarantee that no government is going to propose legislation that will permanently fetter the discretion of subsequent municipal governments.
In the end, a rather small group of persistent and vocal people have accused the incumbent council of not listening to the public. What they really mean is not that the majority on council didn’t hear their arguments, but rather that council didn’t vote the way this group wanted them to vote.
Councillors have to weigh all sorts of information, complex variables, different pieces of legislation and responsibilities before they cast their votes. They hear individuals’ points of view, but they may not be persuaded by them. Perhaps this vociferous pack should be more self-reflective and address why they are unable to make their case to council. It may be that the speakers need to improve their advocacy by presenting council with more cogent arguments and reliable evidence.