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Cultus power shift could be in time for election

There was no virtually no opposition from the crowd at Cultus Lake who showed up at the July 30 meeting to hear about the proposal to create a new Electoral Area H to cover Cultus and Columbia Valley. Chilliwack-Hope MLA Laurie Throness in the bottom right spearheaded the idea. - JENNIFER FEINBERG/ PROGRESS
There was no virtually no opposition from the crowd at Cultus Lake who showed up at the July 30 meeting to hear about the proposal to create a new Electoral Area H to cover Cultus and Columbia Valley. Chilliwack-Hope MLA Laurie Throness in the bottom right spearheaded the idea.
— image credit: JENNIFER FEINBERG/ PROGRESS

A plan to finally address Cultus Lake governance issues is primed to move ahead quickly now.

There were lots of questions but no formal opposition to the idea of splitting the existing Electoral Area E in two at the public meeting held Wednesday night in Cultus Lake.

That is precisely the result Chilliwack-Hope MLA Laurie Throness had been hoping for.

The next step is to collected the feedback and approvals elicited from all levels of government and the public, and present it to the BC Liberals cabinet for discussion.

It could be approved within weeks, he said.

It is not expected to be an expensive move to create the new Electoral Area H district, and a new person could be in the position, working with the Cultus Lake Park Board, by November of 2014.

"I really wanted to take the temperature of the room first," Throness told the crowd.

There were about 100 people in attendance in the steamy Cultus Lake Community Hall for the town hall meeting, hosted by the Fraser Valley Regional District

"I haven't heard anyone speak against the idea," Throness said.

The MLA already had the green light from City of Chilliwack, Cultus Lake Park Board and the Fraser Valley Regional District, as well as the nod from ratepayers' and community associations.

If also approved by the BC Liberal cabinet this month, they will move ahead with creation of a new Electoral Area H, to cover Cultus Lake, Lindell Beach, and Columbia Valley.

What is left of Electoral Area E will encompass the Chilliwack River Valley (CRV).

"Why would we ever consider this? Look to the geography," said FVRD chair Sharon Gaetz, during the regional district presentations.

She outlined the geographic expanse of the existing Electoral Area E, spanning the CRV, Cultus Lake, as well as Columbia Valley and Lindell Beach. The population is the largest of all districts in the FVRD with a total of 3,481 people.

Also with two distinct mountain ranges between the CRV and Cultus, and varying interests within, it seems to be two very different communities, Gaetz noted.

"The other thing is proportional representation. Electoral Area E is the largest in the regional district, and if it is split in half, both sides would still be among the largest."

The smallest population of any FVRD electoral area district is 478, by comparison.

"That's one of the reasons why they need their own representation," Gaetz said. "Poor Dave (Lamson, the current rep) has actually been run off his feet trying to represent them all."

No current FVRD programs or services would be impacted by the split, nor would there be any extra costs or impact on service delivery that couldn't be worked out. The split will increase taxes either, just an extra administrative cost of under $1,000 for each district.

Doing it this way saves the entire cost of a byelection as well, Throness said.

Resident Ken Dosen noted the changes will mean "we are going to have a bigger piece of the pie."

It could also mean "better representation," as well as more services, he said, as well as more grant money with the assistance of regional district staff.

FVRD chair Gaetz underlined the fact that the province made it clear, not once but "four times" that it has "no interest" whatsoever in the prospect of granting Cultus Lake municipality status of any sort.

The new Cultus director on the regional district was in a sense "the next best step" to municipality status.

The new Electoral Area H position would give lakers "a seat at the table," she said, along with increased borrowing powers through the FVRD.

Resident Gary Lister wanted to hear more about the financing capabilities for Cultus in future, but MLA Throness said it's a matter of "baby steps first" such as getting it approved by cabinet first. The Listers collected signatures for a petition that got the Park Board composition and size reduced.

Another speaker from Columbia Valley was concerned about medical marijuana grow-operations.

Resident Dave Clyne said, "It's a no-brainer," quoting his wife, about the prospect of a new FVRD director, since it will give lakers "more of a voice" on issues that matter.

"It makes a lot of sense," he said.

jfeinberg@theprogress.com

Twitter.com/chwkjourno

 

 

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