Petition refusal draws protest

There are concerns that a component of democracy has been cast aside at Vernon city hall.

Coun. Patrick Nicol wanted to give a resident the ability to present a 1,670-name petition on the future of Okanagan Landing firefighters. But  a majority of his colleagues denied the request Monday.

“We’ve always received petitions,” said Nicol, adding that residents should have the right to appear before their elected officials.

The issue arose after Mayor Rob Sawatzky decided that a resident could not present the petition Nov. 26.

The petition calls for the reversal of a decision to cancel a service contract with the Landing firefighters.

Sawatzky stated the petition dealt with in-camera matters of labour and legal contracts and permitting a presentation would leave people with the false impression that they can overturn a council decision.

“It is poor policy to allow contractors to stir the public and bring forward petitions that influence decision makers and staff,” he said.

That argument didn’t go over well with Nicol.

“We’ve been influenced by so many benefitting parties over the years,” he said.

Coun. Juliette Cunningham supported Sawatzky’s original move not to allow a delegation.

“I looked through the signatures and many were not city residents. Many did not know what they were signing,” she said.

Once again, Nicol protested the discussion.

“We had people giving input who didn’t live in the city and we accepted it,” he said of the last official community plan review.

Nicol only garnered support from Coun. Bob Spiers.

“I see nothing wrong with receiving the petition of an interested party. We’ve received them before. We should have received this one,” said Spiers.

Coun. Mary-Jo O’Keefe was absent Monday.


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