After several mayors, directors and councillors from northern B.C. voiced their disappointment with a letter sent Friday by North Central Local Government Association (NCLGA) president Shaely Wilbur on the organization’s behalf to the Lt. Governor, the board of the NCLGA unanimously voted Tuesday to rescind it.
The following is the full statement sent by NCLGA executive director Oliver Ray on behalf of the NCLGA board:
It was an error to send a letter on behalf of all NCLGA local government members without a thorough vetting by the board members duly elected and appointed by them. The NCLGA Board sincerely regrets this and will be taking immediate action to ensure this does not happen again. Furthermore, the NCLGA Board will be sending an official letter of apology to all NCLGA local government members, all leaders of political parties in the BC Legislature and to Her Honour, Lt. Governor Guichon.
The NCLGA unanimously reaffirms that it is a non-partisan association, and recognizes that the contents of the open letter in question have been perceived as partisan, inappropriate and untimely. The NCLGA Board remains committed to promoting the social, environmental, and economic well-being of all NCLGA members, and emphatically states that it will work equally with all stakeholders, decision makers, and elected representatives to that end.
The following is the original open letter:
Dear Lieutenant Governor Guichon,
On behalf of the communities we represent, I am writing to inform Your Honour of concerns we have surrounding the recent pact amongst Opposition Members of the Legislature. The regional catchment area where our local governments operate (municipalities, First Nation communities and regional districts) accounts for 80 per cent of B.C.’s exports, 80 per cent of B.C.’s agricultural land, 60 per cent of the province’s indigenous population and some of the largest resource development projects in North America.
As you know, it is a vast area covering roughly two-thirds of the province and a full third of all First Nations’ traditional territories. Legally, economically, environmentally and logistically, northern B.C. is currently one of the most strategically important places on the continent.
Our principle concern is that the Opposition contract neglects and disempowers the community-level administration of this region and the families who live and work here. We are a non-partisan association and make no distinction between political ideologies. Our goal is to simply advance the environmental, social and economic well-being of all communities in central and northern B.C. Our expectation is that all provincial members from the 10 “northern” ridings, regardless of party membership, have open and transparent input into any deal-making that might shift the balance of power from one set of MLAs to another. Furthermore, Mr. Horgan and Mr. Weaver have released their written contract for public consumption, but their verbal, closed-door deliberations were not conducted publicly.
Undisclosed side agreements and informal understandings are not uncommon in government. But when the informal contracts and discussions involve a major shift in governance, it leaves communities unprepared and vulnerable. As you are aware, what might seem like a small, simple shift in direction behind closed doors can have a major impact on many of our resource dependent communities.
Lastly, we are concerned that the formal, written, binding agreement between the NDP and Green parties goes far beyond the more common, flexible understandings between MLAs and fetters the discretion of individual members of both caucuses in fulfilling their constitutional roles and duties. That fettering of the independent discretion of elected representatives is contrary to both the spirit and the letter of the Canadian Constitution. Respectfully, if the Crown acts in reliance on the agreement we are concerned that the Crown could be condoning an unconstitutional scheme.
We are not submitting to you a desired outcome. Our preference is merely for open and transparent deliberations, and that all citizens of this great province have fair access to the decisions that are fundamental to the structure and direction of their government.
North Central Local Government Association