Opinion » Editorial

A Jumbo division in the Kootenays

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Since they were elected in 2001 the Liberals have created a number of things that have had a polarizing effect on British Columbians. The list includes the harmonized sales tax, expanded gaming, Partnerships BC and Family Day. These were province-wide initiatives, things that all British Columbians could chose to either love or loathe.

But one Liberal creation that's flown under most people's radar is the Mountain Resort Municipality of Jumbo Glacier. In the Kootenays, Jumbo has polarized opinion just as strongly as the HST did.

Everyone's at least heard of Jumbo because it's been around so long. The proposed four-season ski area entered the province's development review process more than 20 years ago, when Mike Harcourt was premier and the NDP was just beginning its two-term, four-premier reign. Harcourt is still endorsing the development proposal on the proponent's website, jumboglacierresort.com

The project received an Environmental Assessment Certificate in 2004, which included 195 commitments to mitigate environmental impacts. The resort's master plan, which includes 5,500 commercial bed units built over three phases and up to 23 lifts serving four glaciers, was approved in 2007. Last March Victoria announced approval of the Jumbo Glacier Resort Master Development Agreement, which allows the development to proceed. In November the province created the Mountain Resort Municipality of Jumbo Glacier and appointed former Radium Hot Springs mayor Greg Deck as mayor of the new municipality. Nancy Hugunin and Steve Ostrander were appointed to the new council. Together they outnumber citizens of the new municipality 3-0.

Last month the municipality was officially incorporated and the council sworn in at the Village of Radium Hot Springs' office. According to the Columbia Valley Pioneer, more than 100 anti-Jumbo protesters chanted outside the village office during the first council meeting, at one point getting so loud that the RCMP called for additional officers. No arrests were made.

The day before the inaugural council meeting, on Feb. 18, the West Kootenay EcoSociety filed a petition challenging the existence of a municipality with no citizens. According to the EcoSociety, "The court filing argues that... there is a common law understanding that a municipality is a democratic institution created for a public purpose. Therefore, the creation of a municipality with no residents for the purpose of furthering a private development is inherently unconstitutional. In addition, other parts of the Local Government Act and the Community Charter refer to municipalities as having residents."

This is the second lawsuit filed against Jumbo. The first came from the Ktunaxa National Council, which has requested a judicial review of the Master Development Agreement, taking into account their Aboriginal title to the Jumbo lands.

But the action isn't confined to courtrooms. The local papers have been filled with letters to the editor bemoaning, or praising, Jumbo. Kicking Horse Coffee, a company based in Invermere, calls one of its products Jumbo Wild, the rally cry of resort opponents. A label on the back of a bag of Jumbo Wild coffee beans reads: "Caution. Out of Bounds." It features a chairlift with a slash through it and urges coffee drinkers to "help us protect our backcountry by visiting www.jumbowild.com."

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