Reader survey shows split on appointed councillor debate

SPMRM council passes motion to request the province reappoint the councillor for one more term
Current councillors Mario Pozza, Ines Popig, Al Raine, Rob O’Toole and appointed member Darcy Alexander. Photo SPIN.

Community members are divided on whether an appointed councillor representing Sun Peaks Resort LLP (SPR) should remain on municipal council, according to a survey conducted by SPIN.

With Sun Peaks Mountain Resort Municipal (SPMRM) elections coming up in October 2022, SPIN asked readers if they think the provincially-appointed position should continue.

Fifty-two per cent of respondents voted in favour of reappointment, with 41 per cent against and seven per cent unsure.

While demographic information was not collected, when the survey was initially posted on social media, where a large portion of SPIN’s engagement is made up of readers aged 25 to 55, most respondents were against reappointment. Once the survey was sent out in SPIN’s weekly newsletter, which has a larger 55+ audience, the results shifted in favour of the councillor, suggesting a potential demographic split in opinion.

The position has been in place since the municipality’s inception in 2010, intended to provide transitional support. The Ministry of Municipal Affairs recently told SPIN they will consider various options before deciding whether the role will remain for the next election period.

During a council meeting on May 3, SPMRM council passed a motion to request the province reappoint the councillor for one more term.

To shed light on the many pros and cons of having the councillor remain, SPIN’s survey allowed readers to expand upon their opinion.

Darcy Alexander, general manager and vice president of SPR, currently holds the appointed position. Several readers said it’s a conflict of interest, claiming Alexander votes in ways that directly benefit the resort.

“The election should be open and free for anyone to run,” a reader wrote. “Appointing any individual who has a clear bias toward the interests of the resort as opposed to the municipality is a fatal mistake.”

Legally, Alexander is allowed to argue for the interests of the resort. However, pro-appointment survey respondents pointed out that he cannot pass measures without the votes of two other council members, who are elected by the community. Therefore the councillor doesn’t have excessive control, they said.

Those in favour of appointment also argued this position is important because Sun Peaks is dependent on SPR.

“If the resort was not here, SPMRM would be a shadow of its current form,” one respondent wrote. “SPMRM [and SPR] are inextricably linked and interdependent upon each other. They need each other’s voices, ears, co-operation and accountability.”

The resort has a significant hand in how the community grows due to a Master Development Agreement between SPR and the province, governing the resort’s developments on Crown land.

Some readers pointed out the municipality has benefited from a close relationship with SPR, which provides land at a reduced cost. They said SPMRM needs to stay on the same page as the resort so the community can flourish.

However, a few respondents argued there are other ways SPR and SPMRM could work together to give the resort input without having a voting role in the municipal decisions. Some suggestions included allowing an appointed member to sit on a committee or have an advisory seat on council.

The appointment of a SPMRM councillor was initially meant to last a short period of time and provide transitional support for the municipality operating in a town with a large corporation. Some readers said this position has been beneficial, but it’s time to move on.

Currently, Sun Peaks is the only municipal council in B.C. not entirely run by elected officials. The Resort Municipality of Whistler also had an appointed councillor as a transitional measure during their early incorporation, and has now had a fully elected council for many years.

Some readers said this isn’t the best year to remove Alexander from his position because there will be other big changes to SPMRM council in 2022. Mayor Al Raine and two other longstanding council members, Mario Pozza and Ines Popig, are not planning to seek reelection.

As a result, some argue reappointing a councillor could provide continuity. Respondents said since Alexander has also been on council since its inception, he has experience and knowledge that new councillors might not have.

The Ministry of Municipal Affairs said a final decision will be communicated to council well in advance of the election.

Thank you to all the readers who provided their thoughts and comments on our survey.

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