February 28, 2017
I am writing this column as much to clarify my own thinking as to inform you, so please bear with me as I negotiate the maze of relationships and agreements among the seven north-east municipalities and the four electoral areas that together constitute the Peace River Regional District (RD).
I hasten to say again, as I’ve often said, that the history of Chetwynd’s relationship with the Regional District, from my perspective, has been predominantly positive and mutually beneficial (the two entities cooperate in a number of areas: the Rec Centre, the Cemetery, Fire Protection, water and sewer). Let it remain so while the sun shines and the rivers flow.
Relationships always involve individuals and when individuals change or when circumstances or viewpoints change with the relentless surge of time, it becomes necessary to stand back and take another look at the things we are doing and even at the framework within which we do them.
I view the Regional District as a unit; you might even think of it in biological terms as a cell within which are discrete, but interdependent components. The cell cannot function or survive if these components fail to function in harmony or turn against each other. Chetwynd cannot survive without the RD and the RD would be a shell of itself without the municipalities.
In practical terms, I believe Chetwynd is essential to the healthy political, social, and economic functioning of the RD – as is Pouce Coupe, Area E, and all the other identifiable components of the RD, this child of the Province. When I sit on the RD board I sit as a globalist on a north-east scale, as far as my human frailty allows, interested in the affairs of the total region and passing judgment as I see it. True, I cannot have full understanding about the far-flung parts of the District and, of necessity, I must turn to other members of the Board for their insights and wisdom. This is how it must be until the Province changes the structure.
Take two examples from senior government decision making. MLA Mike Bernier, our representative in Victoria, must vote on issues far removed from the comfort and security of Dawson Creek and the South Peace – though we are the people who elected him. MP Bob Zimmer, our representative in Ottawa, must vote on issues even farther removed. Mr. Zimmer’s vote could affect lives in PEI or Haida Gwaii. Mr. Bernier might influence change in Cranbrook or Lower Post. It is the way we have organized ourselves in this great country. It seems to work most of the time. When it doesn’t work as quickly or as well or as effectively as we would wish, the results are still better than we might expect in any number of nation states we could name.
Let me transfer this analogy to the RD. As a member of the board, I am a member of a regional governance body. My responsibility does not end at the border of Chetwynd. My vote counts in Montney and Pink Mountain as well as in East Pine and Moberly Lake. And the vote of the Director of Area C can and does affect the affairs of Chetwynd. The process seems to work most of the time. When it doesn’t work as quickly or as well or as effectively as we would wish, the results are still better than we might expect in any number of nation states we could name and Board education, experience, and communication with the people will improve processes and results over time.
Let the sun shine and the rivers flow!
Merlin Nichols, Mayor