A $1,000 grant-in-aid to a non-profit group opposed to a regional gravel removal plan was hotly debated at the Fraser Valley Regional District board meeting last Tuesday.
Abbotsford councillor John Smith raised the question of whether grants should be approved for groups politically opposed to FVRD policies, which set off the debate.
The grant-in-aid to the Actively Creating an Exceptional Society (ACES) was eventually approved, although the group is strongly opposed to the FVRD’s proposed gravel removal plan.
“They may be lovely people,” Smith said, “(but) do they qualify for funding?”
“If we’re going to go down that road … should we be looking at our policy?” he asked.
Area C director Wendy Bales, who made the motion, defended ACES’ good works in the community.
“They have a different point of view,” she agreed, but they also hold Christmas family celebrations, community movie nights and monitor Lake Errock in partnership with environmental groups.
Although electoral area directors may approve grants-in-aid that come from a fund paid for by area taxpayers, the full FVRD board must give final approval.
That fact brought support for the ACES grant from Area A director Lloyd Forman.
“It’s your area, it’s your taxpayers money … it’s nobody’s business but yours what they do with it,” he said.
However, Abbotsford Mayor George Peary said he wouldn’t give his political support to the grant because Bales and Area B director Dennis Adamson had taken part in a protest in his city against public-private partnerships.
“From my perspective, I vote against it,” the mayor said.
Adamson characterized the debate as “city folk telling the rural folks” how to spend their money.
And after the meeting he charged that opposition to the grant was politically motivated because of ACES’ opposition to the region’s proposed Aggregate Pilot Program to identify gravel removal areas.
“They don’t like what (ACES) is saying about the APP,” he said.
Dick Bogstie, Area F director and chairman of the FVRD’s rural areas committee, said the group’s opposition to the gravel plan never crossed his mind.
“While I may not agree with ACES, they do considerable work in Lake Errock and are involved in a number of things that benefit the whole community,” he said.
The grant-in-aid policy will be reviewed by staff for possible changes. Similar grants made by the municipal directors are governed by provincial legislation.