Bemused and Befuddled

Plain Rhetoric
By Bill McQuarrie
February 13, 2018 - 6:28am Updated: February 13, 2018 - 8:48am

KAMLOOPS — Politicians!  There are weeks when the only thing you can do is give your head a shake and wonder in bemused befuddlement, if we have indeed entered the Twilight Zone of local politics.  Here’s what I mean:

Back on January 23, during a meeting of City Council, you may recall that Mayor Christian was blunt and testy in his refusal to vote in favour of Councillor Caver’s motion to have staff look at and review all options for snow removal.  

At the time he said it was, “A study involving a fairly significant amount of staff time. And more importantly, it implies the staff aren’t doing anything and that is incorrect.”

Reaffirming his support for staff’s diligence, he went on to state, “And the public needs to know (that staff are on top of it)…”

Obviously the Mayor was quite confident that improvement in service levels was not something this City needed or had to waste time on.  Mr. Christian had things totally under control.

Fast forward to February 6th and CFJC’s Chad Klassen’s article on the public meeting where City Council began reviewing supplemental money requests and the story has been rewritten to suit new circumstances.

Faced with a public meeting and continued and growing concern about snow removal practices, Mayor Christian changed tactics.  Without acknowledging Mr. Cavers earlier suggestion to review best practices, Christian had his own new idea, stating, "I think we need a systematic review of service levels, and then from that decide where we want to expend the public's money on enhanced services."

And while he had the grace not to throw staff under the bus, he did acknowledge there was room for and an eagerness on his part to encourage them to find more snow removal efficiencies.

Later that week, I attended a TNRD meeting and it didn’t take long before I swear I again heard Rod Serling whispering in my ear, “Welcome to the Twilight Zone.”

My interest in this meeting was a motion on changing the relationship between volunteer fire departments and the TNRD. In particular they wanted to change the funding model for non-TNRD VFD’s.  And their definition of change boiled down to the immediate elimination of financial or in-kind contributions to volunteer fire departments not administered by the TNRD.

The purpose behind this financial abandonment had nothing to do with improved safety or operations and everything to do with a fear of TNRD liability.  A liability that the district admits may or may not even be an issue.

With a rather perverse sense of what constitutes transparency, fairness and open dialogue, they began the meeting by denying a request by Director Rothenburger, to have the McLure Fire Brigade Chief speak to the Board.

Not to be deterred, Rothenburger put forward a motion to delay the final vote until the next Board meeting. The intent was to allow Directors to update VFD’s and get their feedback. The motion died on the floor with a tied vote. That was followed by a vote on the original resolution and the funding cuts were approved.

What happens next fire season when homes need protection from wildfires?  When lives and millions of dollars of property and government infrastructure are at risk?  Do these same liability fearful directors cry out for help and protection from those they just gave the financial hose to?  Of course they will, while telling all who will listen how selfless and brave these men and women are.

Then to top off the week, the City of Vernon announced that their Council has unanimously voted in favour of issuing Temporary Use Permits (TUP) to existing cannabis retailers.  No $10,000 fine for landlord or retailer disobedience. And no fear of the dreaded grandfathering issue or any other roadblocks that Kamloops City Hall told us would happen under the TUP system.  

What does Vernon and many other municipalities know that our civic leaders don’t know or perhaps, don’t want to know?

As one frustrated and VFD friendly TNRD director pointedly mentioned during the firefighter debate, “I thought we were here to serve the people, not just us.”