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Beleaguered B.C. village council cannot turn itself off

No legislative provisions allow for a council to fire itself, after Harrison Hot Springs mayor asks
There are no legislative provisions to dissolve Harrison’s council, according to the Ministry of Municipal Affairs. (Observer File Photo)

Can officials in the troubled Fraser Valley community of Harrison Hot Springs dissolve their council?

Provincial law says “no.”

Mayor Ed Wood recently lost a bid to write Minister of Municipal Affairs Anne Kang asking her to dissolve all of council and the village CAO and appoint a lone trustee in their place, when his motion was defeated by a tied council vote.

But even if the vote would have passed, the ministry has confirmed no legislative provisions exist that would allow what was being requested to happen. Furthermore, according to Elections BC, there is also no recall process in place for B.C. mayors or councillors. While Elections BC enforces the Recall and Initiative Act, it applies only to provincial MLAs.

RELATED: Another council meeting cancelled for Harrison Hot Springs

The province has some power when it comes to municipalities and boards across B.C. There are provisions for the dissolution of municipalities themselves – most often when they’re being incorporated into a new municipality or regional district. Moreover, the province can dissolve school boards and replace them with an official trustee. This was the case in 2016, when then-education ministry Mike Bernier fired the members of the Vancouver school district for failing to comply with the School Act, which requires the board to adopt a balanced budget.

In addition to the Vancouver school board’s non-compliance on a balanced budget, the province reported a number of “troubling allegations” of workplace toxicity and bullying.

RELATED: Another Harrison council meeting ends early amid clashes

Harrison’s issues have been tied to conflicts around the council table that have repeatedly disrupted its business. These include cancelled meetings, and allegations of illegal meetings, bullying, harassment, intimidation and disrespect.

The provincial most concrete response to the ongoing troubles among Harrison’s governing body was to send an independent municipal advisor. Advisor Ron Poole worked with council in a series of meetings; Wood did not attend at least two of them. Poole made several recommendations to council, presenting his final report last November.

“It is the responsibility of council to consider and implement these recommendations,” the ministry told The Observer. “This will require a commitment from council members and the community, and may take time. The ministry is in regular contact with the Village of Harrison Hot Springs and will continue to be available to provide guidance and facilitate additional support going forward.”

Wood expressed his disappointment that Poole did not investigate allegations of “illegal meetings.” Council voted 3-2 to receive the final report, Wood and Allen opposed.

Harrison’s next regular council meeting is scheduled for April 2.

Adam Louis

About the Author: Adam Louis

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