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Jumbo Mountain Resort Municipality reaction: 'Public land giveaway'

The location of the proposed Jumbo resort. - Invermere Valley Echo file photo
The location of the proposed Jumbo resort.
— image credit: Invermere Valley Echo file photo

[Editor's note: this is a follow up to our breaking news story on the B.C. government's Jumbo Mountain Resort Municipality announcement on Nov. 20.]

Reaction to the B.C. Government decision to create a Mountain Resort Municipality for the controversial Jumbo Glacier Resort was swift, with criticism coming in from numerous directions moments after the B.C. Liberal government announced the decision.

Norm Macdonald (NDP), the MLA for Columbia River-Revelstoke, where Jumbo is located, characterized the announcement as a "giveaway of public lands in the Kootenays." He noted the BC Liberals were making the decision just six months before a general election.

He pointed to opposition from the Union of British Columbia Municipalities, who in September of this year opposed an amendment made to the Local Government Act earlier in the year that allowed the government to create the Jumbo Mountain Resort Municipality.

“I’ve not spoken to anyone outside the BC Liberal party who thinks that this legislation makes sense,” Macdonald said. “To create a town where there are no residents, to appoint a council that may never face election, and do this with no real possibility that a resort will be built is ridiculous. But a small group of Jumbo supporters are getting their way on this one: transferring control of public lands into private hands.

“One has to ask why the BC Liberals would press forward with this designation at this time. This resort will never be built, and after more than a decade, the developer has not been able to find an investor," Macdonald continued. “It’s a shocking mismanagement of the powers that have been vested in this government and is indicative of just how far this government has strayed. There is no one that can say this move today is in the public interest. It’s a tremendous abuse of power that voters in this area will reject.”

He said the resort does not make economic or environmental sense and noted opposition from the Ktunaxa First Nation, who announced plans to apply for a judicial review of the decision to approve Jumbo Glacier Resort.

The Ktunaxa plan to file the review in the B.C. Supreme Court in Cranbrook on Nov. 30. "Ktunaxa have been on record as being opposed to this resort since it was first proposed, principally on the spiritual importance of the Qat'muk area for Ktunaxa people, as well as the concerns for the protection of wildlife populations, biodiversity and water quality."

East Kootenay environmental organization Wildsight also panned the move. "This decision flies in the face of democratic land-use decisions, overwhelming public opposition, grizzly bear science, First Nations spiritual claims and opposition from the Union of BC Municipalities (UBCM)," said Wildsight program manager Robyn Duncan.

“Land-use decisions should be made locally," she said. “This process is an end-run around the local democratic process and it ignores the advice of the government’s own grizzly bear biologists, who have said that the Jumbo Glacier Resort would threaten the viability of grizzly bears in the Purcell Mountains."

Update:

In a Nov. 20 press conference, Minister Bennett said the province would spend $260,000 in 2013 on the resort municipality, including salaries. He avoided direct questions about other expenses that provincial taxpayers would bear for the municipality, saying it was a good investment. "This is not unusual for a province to assist a new municipality in its first year," he said. "At end of 2013 we'll take a look at where the resort is at and we'll make a determination about whether there are sufficient funds for the mayor and council to continue with its work and we'll make a decision then. I'm not going to preclude additional funding from the ministry."

Bennett announced the mayor of the municipality would be Greg Deck, and councillors are Nancy Hugunin and Steve Ostrander. Hugunin is a well-known local entrepreneur, mother and grandmother, and serves as the Kootenay Regional Chairperson for the BC Ski Association. Ostrander, a retired professional forester, is currently a director for the Columbia Valley Food Bank, the Lake Windermere District Lions Club and the Columbia Headwaters Community Forest Initiative.

Bennett was hopeful the new, three-person council would be successful. "We'll keep a watch over how they do business. I've got a lot of faith in all three of them," he said. "Towards the end of 2013 we'll make a decision as to whether or not we're going to re-appoint the current mayor and council or whether we're going to appoint somebody else."

He said the letters patent for the municipality say the town must have an property assessment roll of $30 million before an election – or by 2017, depending on what comes first.

"We believe this is the right thing to do for British Columbia," Bennett said. "The news here is that we have an opportunity to have a ski resort created in British Columbia that will be unparalleled anywhere in North America. Guaranteed snow at Christmas. What other ski resort in North America can say that? Guaranteed natural snow at Christmas time. Five large glaciers to ski on. There is no ski resort like this in North America. This can be a game changer for us."

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