After ecoTECH Energy Group named him as part of a “destructive fringe” in¬tent to “derail” their developments in McBride, mayoral candidate Al Birnie had the chance to talk to ecoTECH CEO Colin Hall face to face.
“After some discussion, [Colin Hall] assured me that he would have no problem working with me if I am elected Mayor, and the feeling is mutual,” Birnie said.
The letter naming Birnie was sent to McBride Council Oct. 17th and subsequently made public. Birnie says Hall wrote the letter without speaking to him first. The letter alleged that Birnie would make public “corporate confidences” of a sensitive busi¬ness nature if elected mayor.
Birnie says he in no way intends to sabotage the project by disclosing information and says keeping some details private is common sense. He says the ecoTECH project would be fantastic and a game-changer for jobs and the economy.
On paper, he adds, it is an imaginative, eco-friendly proposal of cutting-edge technology and while he says he has doubts about the company’s ability to deliver, as mayor he would do everything in his power to smooth the way for them to set up operations.
According to their plans, ecoTECH’s proposed green industrial park would potentially provide some 280 temporary and permanent jobs in McBride. The company has been working closely with the existing mayor and council and says construction could begin as early as spring 2012. They hosted a job fair last weekend at the Robson Valley Community Centre when Hall and several other executive members attended and collected job applications from hopefuls.
Hall said he based his opinion about Birnie’s intents on a leaflet Birnie had written to support his candidacy for mayor, a leaflet distributed throughout McBride.
Hall confirmed that he had spoken to Birnie and Birnie had clarified his position that “corporate confidences,” as the ecoTECH letter claimed, would not be shared with the public.
“Mr. Birnie’s been here and explained this to me today. (But) the way his paper (campaign leaflet) reads, any business that comes to the village will be broadcast all over the place. And I can’t understand that. Not when you’re trying to put together a project of this kind.”
When confronted by a member of the public at the job fair who asked why he is afraid of the democratic process, Hall responded, “I’m not scared of the democratic process … I think it’s great.”
Birnie said he didn’t ask for an apology and none was offered.
He also said he doesn’t understand how Hall understood his leaflet in that way. Additionally, he said businesses seeking to set up in an area don’t normally interfere in local politics in this manner.
“All I said in the leaflet was that I was going to reveal any ‘secret agreements,’” Birnie says. He says an example of a secret agreement is the tentative deal between ecoTECH and the community forest.
“The public needs to know why you’re doing these things.”
Where you have to draw the line, Birnie says, is any agreements made by municipal bodies to help any business proposal.
“These are clearly things that Council does which will impact the Village, and taxpayers need to know honestly why they are being done,” he says. “Village leaders need to be open and account¬able for their actions.”