Wednesday, March 28, 2007

NDP Spews a Bunch of Mumbo Jumbo, says Bennett

Bill Bennett, MLA, East Kootenay


For immediate release
March 27, 2007

NDP Spews a Bunch of Mumbo Jumbo, says Bennett

VICTORIA - Norm MacDonald and the NDP have once again failed to listen to their constituents and placed political partisan rhetoric ahead of Kootenay residents by opposing the development of Jumbo Glacier Resort, said East Kootenay MLA Bill Bennett.

Bennett made the following statement in the B.C. Legislature today:

"The facts and figures prove Norm MacDonald and the NDP's claim of residents heavily objecting the proposed resort are false. The fact is, only 1.4 percent of the region's residents actually took the time to express their opposition to this project. It is unfortunate Norm needs to exaggerate the numbers for a project he and his party don't want rather than taking the time to listen to Kootenay residents.

"I do support this legislation for three main reasons, one of which is that I believe that the legislation, including the sections that seem to offend the opposition, is in the best interests of the people of the East Kootenay. I believe that; otherwise I wouldn't support it.

"This legislation provides to existing resort communities the capacity to go out to market their towns and to market their regions. It creates a new authority to develop a resort municipality, just as older legislation in this province allowed the provincial government of the day to create what they called, at the time, instant towns. I have two of them in my riding, - Sparwood and Elkford. They were created by instant town legislation, and that's what this section does in this proposed bill.

"The NDP is off base, even so far as the sections that they have identified they oppose. I've not heard them mention section 16 at all. They seem to be opposing sections 14 and 15. Those two sections allow a resort region to be created. In the case of my riding, that will allow the city of Fernie to go outside the city of Fernie and include the adjacent ski resort in the resort region so that they can qualify for the hotel tax funding. Otherwise they won't qualify for it.

"The main opposition to the Jumbo project over the past 16 years has focused on the alleged pristine status of the Jumbo Valley. When you drive up into the Jumbo Valley, you drive on a paved road to one of B.C.'s largest, fastest-growing resorts, Panorama. To me it makes more sense to put another ski resort on the same road in the same area than it does to go into another valley that might, in fact, be pristine. That seems to be good management, good land use planning.

"Local government, as well as the environmentalists, participated in our land use planning process called CORE. That lasted for two years. The participants in that land use planning process, including local government and including the environmental associations, signed off on the Kootenay-Boundary land use plan, which specifically designates the Jumbo Valley for responsible resort development.

"The CORE process was all about listening to local people, and local government had a seat at that table for two years. The former ombudsman and the leader of the CORE process, Stephen Owen sent a letter in 1994 to two B.C. NDP ministers, urging the province to get on with the assessment of this project. In 1996, the Regional District of East Kootenay voted 'yes' on a resolution to support the project. The resolution stated that once an environmental certificate was obtained by the proponent, the project should proceed.

"Eleven years later, in February of 2005, the proponent had finally gained an environmental assessment certificate with 200 conditions imposed on it.

"The people of the East Kootenay can't eat bumper stickers. The people of the East Kootenay want jobs. Let's get on with supporting our rural resort municipalities, and let's get on with the business of making good decisions for the benefit of all British Columbians."

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