Not enough information yet for Prince Rupert referendum

Listening to council debate the direction the City will go when it comes to borrowing money for a new emergency services building was both refreshing and a bit perplexing.

Listening to council debate the direction the City will go when it comes to borrowing money for a new emergency services building was both refreshing and a bit perplexing.

It was a bit refreshing to hear some passionate debate in council chambers about whether the City should pursue the alternate approval process or go to a referendum this November to borrow money for a common building to house the police, fire and, from my understanding, the ambulance service. For the record, I’m all in favour of a referendum and agree that, given the short time until the election is held, including the referendum as part of the municipal vote this fall makes more sense than trying an alternate approval process that could fail and require a referendum be held any way. Never mind people also being away on summer holidays…

But this is where I get perplexed – how could the City intend on holding an alternate approval process in the coming months when the electorate has next to no information on what they are voting for?

When Port Edward had their alternate approval process, they went to the electorate with a price tag for the building, a location for the building, what the inside and outside would look like, how long construction would take and how long it would take to repay the

money. As we speak, there has been no information coming from City Hall about where the emergency services building would be located, how much money it would cost to construct or a budget that would be adhered to, what the building would look like on the inside, what the building would look like on the outside, how long it would take to repay the loan, the impact on taxes and when it would be started or completed.

To be honest, we have no more information than in February, 2009, when the emergency services building idea gained prevalence due to the state of the aging RCMP detachment and fire hall.

Likewise, Port Edward was able to tell people the consequences of not proceeding with the school. Right now all we have is veiled mentions of nasty e-mails from the RCMP. When it comes to this, it would also be up to the City to outline the pros and cons of a new building versus the cell retrofit that has been on the books for years.

And an even better question, given this building came on the radar several years ago, is why it has taken so long to get to the point of seeking electorate approval? If it’s close to the point of RCMP pulling service due to safety concerns, as Mayor Mussallem alluded to, how was it allowed to get to this point without action a few years ago?

Based on all this and council meeting schedules I would suggest the earliest an alternate approval process could proceed is in September. In that case, why not wait a few more months and hold it with the election?