BEYOND THE HEADLINES: Democracy 101

It appears that some Lumby residents are wanting to have their cake and eat it too.

Those opposed to a correctional facility setting up shop in the community have blasted village council’s handling of the issue. And rightly so. At times the process hasn’t seemed very transparent. Instead of simply just presenting information to the public, council has given the impression that a prison is a foregone conclusion. Mayor Kevin Acton’s comments certainly haven’t been impartial.

But despite calls for democracy and openness to prevail, the opposition forces are now treading a very thin line.

On CHBC March 24, Paul Fisher, Lumby Concerned Citizens spokesman, was asked if his group would accept a yes vote for a prison during the April 30 referendum.

His response was, “Even though we might lose the referendum, we’re not going to stop.”

Now Fisher might have meant that his group may continue to express concerns about the potential impact of a prison on Lumby if a majority of Lumby residents endorse a facility, and they may lobby for changes to minimize those concerns if a building actually goes ahead. Such action would certainly be acceptable.

However, it would be easy to read into Fisher’s comments that his group will not accept anything but a no vote April 30 and they will consider other options to prevent a jail from coming to town.

If that is what is intended, then that would be extremely unfortunate, particularly from a group whose reputation has been partly based on being inclusive and having rank-and-file citizens listened to.

Imagine if the shoe was on the other foot and a majority of Lumby residents (and in our system, a majority is 50 per cent plus one) voted that they didn’t want a prison, but council and the yes side proceeded to ask the government for one.

Heads would roll. There would be immediate demands for resignations. There would be threats of legal action.

So if members of Lumby Concerned Citizens are going to hold village council to a certain moral and political standard, they must be willing to walk the talk themselves.

If there is a yes vote April 30, Lumby Concerned Citizens won’t be happy, but they must accept the results.

Obviously they should remain vigilant and ensure that government and council promises are fulfilled, but there must be no talk of overturning the referendum results no matter how questionable the process has been.

Back in February, Fisher took a swing at his elected officials.

“We are disappointed in the way council has handled this critical issue because we now have a community divided and becoming more divided,” he said.

There is absolutely no question Lumby and area is divided, and the entire debate has got personal and nasty at times.

But given Fisher’s comments that “we’re not going to stop” if there is a yes vote, the rift will get even worse if Lumby Concerned Citizens tries to relive the fight. It is one thing to stand up for what you believe is right, but it’s completely another to turn the screws when the majority has spoken.

Also, by implying that they won’t abide by the referendum outcome, the Lumby Concerned Citizens are giving approval to those who want a prison to do the same if a majority of residents vote in the negative. It will become nothing but an endless, vicious cycle.

Acton and the rest of council have indicated publicly that they will live with what ever happens April 30, and it is time for Lumby Concerned Citizens to do the same.

Richard Rolke is The Morning Star’s senior reporter.