DEMOCRACY THE FVRD WAY

Victor Froese, July 1, 2012

I attended the June 26th Aggregate Pilot Project meeting out of curiosity. The announcement that appeared in the paper was vague and a message to FVRD did not clarify much. Soon after the announcement appeared the contact e-mail address was disabled, presumably because of the volume of questions directed to it (this was confirmed at the meeting by binders full of e-mails).

There was no agenda available prior to the meeting; the agenda finally distributed at the meeting contained no topic outline listing only “presentation by staff”.  During a recess, I requested the chair to post the contents on the FVRD website since it was clearly read from print documents by staff.

A question/answer page on the website (to which the public was directed) offered biased information. For example, it stated that one objective was to “foster better communication between MoM, FVRD and the Aggregate industry”, when, in fact, the “conflict” is between the public and those three groups. At the meeting a paper entitled FVRD APP Recommendations Report (dated March 31, 2009) was distributed with alternate pages missing! There also appears to be considerable confusion between having public consultations and using the advice of the public, and there is no admission that public input has been overwhelmingly negative to the APP in those previous consultations.

The media announcement indicated that written submissions were due by noon the day BEFORE the meeting. How does a citizen respond to content which is indeterminate (i.e. no agenda, no clear meeting focus, no presentation document, etc.) before it is presented?

A June 12th personal media release by FVRD Chair Gaetz essentially dismisses citizen’s complaints as “passionate” but made it clear that “gravel is a vital commodity” (translate as gravel trumps citizens).  While reminding directors to remain “open minded” at the meeting, she essentially outlined her own position in print. There seems to be a lack of understanding of board governance principles in communications coming out of the FVRD.

While the chair indicated that the FVRD directors represented their areas, there was no evidence that they asked for input from their electorate. One wonders on what basis they have made their decisions or what qualifications they have to colour mining maps?  A question about changes in the mapping could not be answered by the chair or staff.  When prodded for the reasons, the meeting was temporarily recessed.

Several compromise suggestions by Mr. Thompson with regards to large-scale gravel acquisition were dismissed out of hand by the APA representative but without presenting any evidence.  Then Mr. Neufeld re-presented the core of an alternate plan on behalf of the Fraser Valley Citizen’s Associations which would ameliorate the “conflict gravel” predicament.  To date a majority of FVRD directors have rejected this very detailed plan at every occasion.

Those in attendance were threatened by the director of the Aggregate Producer’s Association with open season on gravel mining if their present mapping was not accepted. That was followed by MLA Hawes suggesting that the questioned mapping “should never have gone to yellow” and he didn’t see why it couldn’t be changed back. I thought I was attending a FVRD sponsored meeting; who is responsible for the colour coding which can be altered at whim?

The APP was initiated to reduce “conflict” between the public and the controlling governments by Mr. Hawes. How is this sort of confrontational stance, with a clear “take it or leave it attitude” supposed to reduce conflict? How does keeping the resident taxpayers out of decision making reduce conflict, especially when they are not consulted by the majority of FVRD directors?  Why were the aggregate producers allowed at the planning table while citizen’s groups were denied equivalent input?  This is not representative democracy at work.  Further, the FVRD should be ashamed of the very flawed meeting process we witnessed.

My curiosity ended at 11:30 pm and in the hall way I asked a person what he thought of the meeting. The answer: “it was a joke”.  I wonder what the other over 200 attendees thought?

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