IntegrityBC is calling on the provincial government to appoint a conciliator to resolve what it describes as “the escalating disputes in the town of Lillooet over local governance and water management.”
“At best the relationship between citizens and officials in Lillooet could be called dysfunctional,” said executive director Dermod Travis. “While the government has rejected a request from residents for an inquiry, IntegrityBC believes a conciliator may be able to bridge the widening gulf between residents and town officials.”
IntegrityBC recommends that a conciliator review and report on local governance, town spending and water management. The Victoria-based organization says the work of a conciliator should include the commissioning and release of an independent analysis on competing proposals for the town's proposed water system, including long-term operating costs.
Integrity BC describes itself as a non-partisan political advocacy group.
In a news release, IntegrityBC describes the current situation in Lillooet as “municipal governance run amok.”
Travis told the News IntegrityBC did not speak “officially or unofficially” with the District of Lillooet before issuing its May 23 news release.
Instead, he said the organization relied on discussions with individual residents to come to its conclusions about the local political situation. He said his group has been monitoring events here since the January resignations of Ted Anchor and Kevin Taylor, while also relying on media reports, social media sites, online polls in the Lillooet News and other sources to gauge the political climate in town.
“We are simply putting forward an approach that we believe would be beneficial to resolving these governance issues. We are not making a personal attack against anyone in the community, but what we are saying is that a debate is going on in the town of Lillooet and the debate is hardening rather than softening,” Travis told the News. “Sometimes, when you get to a point, it’s better to have someone come in from the outside and come up with a common statement of facts.”
The IntegrityBC news release quotes a recent study by the Canadian Federation of Independent Business stating that Lillooet’s population dropped by 16 per cent from 2000 to 2009, compared to a province-wide increase of 12 per cent. “Despite this alarming drop, per capita spending jumped by 83 per cent during the same period, the 27th worst performance of any town or city in the province,” said IntegrityBC.
The advocacy group also claims Lillooet’s new $10 million water system is capable of serving a population base of approximately 30,000 people, “while residents remain in the dark over its sustainability and long-term operating costs.”
Travis added that some of the challenges facing Lillooet are not necessarily unique to Lillooet. He said a process involving a government-appointed conciliator may be a “good way not only to resolve issues in Lillooet but in other small communities as well.”
Since the May 23 news release, he said residents in other communities have contacted IntegrityBC for information on a conciliation process.
“With more and more smaller B.C. communities facing uncertainty over their future, Lillooet could very well be the proverbial canary in the coal mine,” said Travis. “That's why even if there's a cost to the government for a conciliator, their report may provide a cautionary tale and road map for other smaller communities in B.C. on how to avoid the predicament that Lillooet now finds itself in.”