The Valemount Community Forest (VCF) and Valemount Industrial Park (VIP) Board was at last allowed to attend a Special (Public) Council meeting with the Village on Oct 6 to dispute Policy 81 which changes the structure of the company (puts a Councillor and CAO on the board) and limits who can serve as a director based on new conflict of interest rules (there will be zero conflict).
We had presumed, that as the Village’s partner, we would be exploring and debating options, but in reality we were allowed to speak and then one minor change was made. It very quickly became clear to us that the outcome was a foregone conclusion.
My complaint remains the way in which this major change was handled. Yes, the Village, as the sole shareholder, has the legal power to do whatever they want. But do the Council and CAO have the ethical power and the public support to radically change a company that was designed by the public? Does the Council and CAO feel in camera discussion and adoptions are sufficiently transparent? We strongly suggest that they are not sufficient for a public company. The Council allowed Policy 81 to be written and would have allowed it to be approved with no input whatsoever from their general partner or the public had we not insisted on bringing it out into the open.
The community forest only ever saw ONE written complaint about conflict of interest, an opinion by the local newspaper editor, his opinion. After all these years of operating smoothly with our own conflict of interest guidelines in place, ONE complaint seems a rather small number. However, the current CAO seemed to run with that ONE and is determined to push through his agenda with the latest round of councillors. Because one of the councillors recused herself from the discussion and did not vote on the subject, there weren’t many left to persuade.
Over and over the Village says to us “what a great job you are all doing.” But Policy 81 says that most of the board will
have to go now because the Village has a new idea about how the board will operate. The VCF doesn’t agree with
you on this and we aren’t convinced the public agrees with you either. The new policy’s conflict of interest rules will
severely hamper the ability of the board to recruit and retain the competent, qualified people that the company needs to help successfully steer the company. The board fears the loss of separation between business and politics. They fear the uncertainty the company and the board will face with each new election of Councillors and CAOs.
The last time a radical change to the structure of the companies was proposed, which removed two councillors
and a staff person from the board for valid reasons, a public meeting was called and was well attended and the
decision was supported. This company exists because the public wanted to create, develop and maintain a successful
community forest that provided well-paid jobs. These recent proposed changes are radical and detrimental, and so once again, it is important for proper public consultation.
The Valemount Community Forest has been the envy of community forests and villages across the province. Part of
our success has been due to the respect and the support we had from our shareholder. The conflict created by Policy 81 has changed that. We keep asking, why would you change a model that has brought such esteem to our Village and
continues to increase local jobs, and diversify the economy and economic stimulus to the residents of the Robson Valley and Region?
The Board would like to see the policy put on hold until a public meeting is held. It is the people of this community
who are the ones most affected by what we both do.
President of the Board (VCF and VIP)