On the last day of the Union of B.C. Municipalities Convention in Victoria this past week, members voted in favour of supporting ex-School District 79 trustees in their push to petition the Province for a by-election.
Coun. McGonigle put forward the resolution which stated, in part, “that the UBCM petition the Province to issue a ministerial order for elections to be conducted in a local government where vacancies are caused by ministerial intervention so that the democratic rights of the citizens of the affected political jurisdiction are properly protected and served and the business of local government may be appropriately exercised through its duly elected representatives.”
“This resolution was sent in as a late resolution last week. The UBCM resolutions committee did not accept this resolution as they were under the understanding that the incident that led to the resolution took place long before the deadline and therefore should have been submitted at a much earlier date,” said Coun. Day.
“That being said, a resolution can still be admitted for considered for discussion if the majority of delegates vote to allow it the be put on the floor of the convention. Councillor McGonigle stepped up to the microphone and requested that the delegation vote to let the resolution be put on the floor and his request was voted in favor of by over 50 per cent of the delegation.”
Day explained that NorthCowichan Councillor, Al Siebring rose as a voice of opposition to the resolution.
“Siebring rose and spoke against the motion stating that he was not impressed with the flowery language and that the issue should be resolved at home in the Cowichan Valley,” said Day.
“My personal thoughts are that I am pleased the resolution was endorsed and that the new education minister Don McRea will have a chance to review the situation. That being said I find myself frustrated at the whole public education system and personally feel the whole system needs an overhaul. I can only hope that one day the system will move out of the past and become more up to date and efficient. We have got to bring our facilities up to date and give our students and teachers the tools they need to make our system vibrant and successful. The powers that be need to find a way to do this as soon as possible. It’s going to take the dialogue of parents, school boards, local and senior governments, staff, and teachers to figure this out. I suggest they start now and work cooperatively before the buildings start to crumble too,” added Day.
Area F Director Ian Morrison rose and spoke for the motion as well did CVRD Director Lorne Duncan.
“I was fortunate to get the opportunity to speak to the resolution, and I passionately put forth the notion that democracy was the point of the resolution, and I wasn’t debating the reasons why School District 79’s board is currently not in office. I spoke about the fact that the public expect by-elections when there are vacancies, regardless of what level of government we speak of.
“Several delegates came up to me after the vote substantially endorsed the resolution. Many told me that my arguments in support of the resolution caused them to change their minds and support it,” said Morrison.
Eden Haythornthwaite, the ex-chair of the SD79 School Board is pleased by the vote.
“I am very uplifted by this development. It is good to know that regardless of position, principle or party most of the delegates with some notable exceptions believed Cowichan has every right to have its school board matters governed by people they choose in an election rather than an unelected bureaucrat,” said Haythornthwaite. “Hopefully, this will soften the heart of Minister McRae and allow him to see the wisdom of taking his chances with democracy just like the rest of us are willing to do.”
“Now the resolution will be put forward to the B.C.’s Education Ministry with UBCM endorsement, and we wait to hear from them whether or not they will call a by-election. There is no time frame set,” said Day.
In a statement released by the Education Minister’s office, Min. Don McRae said that he was aware that the resolution had been passed at the UBCM in support of a by-election.
“Before any decisions are made, I am going to have a conversation with official trustee Mike McKay about the progress being made in School District 79. Under the School Act, the official trustee remains in place until the next municipal election, or until Cabinet orders a new by-election,” said McRae.
Haythornthwaite says she doesn’t know what progress the minister is talking about, and cites that during her time as chair of the board progress was made in many areas including labour management and classroom conditions.
“He does seem to be claiming dialogue with McKay, as if the person appointed should be in charge of elections. But ultimately it is up to the ministry,” said Haythornthwaite.