Will your letter on Birch Cove Lakes be heard??

1500 people took the time to write City Hall to talk about why the Birch Cove Lakes matters to them. That’s an extraordinarily enthusiastic response, particularly considering the obstacles that were placed in the way of full public participation. 

Several people sent copies of their letters to me, and I have to say, those letters were personal and heartfelt. They were well thought out and often contained personal stories and anecdotes about the Birch Cove Lakes and why protecting the place is important.

So, the next step is for the elected councillors to actually read those letters, right?? Well, perhaps not.

I contacted the Municipal Clerks office about this and was told that the 1500 public submissions would be sent to Regional Council (along with an accompanying staff report) some time in the fall.  That, in itself, is not unreasonable.  A lot of letters were submitted and it will take time to review those. Absolutely every one of those letters needs to be carefully read and considered. The public should expect nothing less.

What is unreasonable, however, is that Regional Council is proceeding ahead anyways with a debate about the Birch Cove Lakes on this coming Tuesday, and the Councillors will entertain a motion that could make substantial decisions about the regional park without having the benefit of having read all of those public submissions. That’s unacceptable.

People who have been following the Birch Cove Lakes issue closely for years won’t be at all surprised that the local Councillor for the area, Reg Rankin, is caught up in the middle of this. He introduced the motion that initiates the debate at Regional Council before those 1500 public submissions are sent to the councilors as part of the full package of briefing materials.

His motion needs to be rejected. Full stop.  It’s wrong on so many levels, not least of which for the way it treats those 1500 people who made those 1500 submissions.

And, if I may add, a clear signal needs to be sent from Regional Council that the public matters in this debate. The process that was used to gather public feedback on the Facilitator’s report was terrible (one public meeting in a room too small, no questions allowed, no verbal comments, written submissions due following a long weekend in summer, etc.).  The City has tried to distance itself from that process, saying it wasn’t a Municipal-run process, conveniently ignoring that the Municipality actually signed off on the process beforehand.

Well, in this case, Regional Council is fully in control on deciding when it wants to debate something. And they can fully decide if they want to do so BEFORE they receive those 1500 public submissions, or AFTER. It’s up to them. I respectfully suggest that they choose to read those letters.

Lots of us will be watching.

~Chris Miller

Charlies Lake. Photo credit: Irwin Barrett