Penticton gets cold shoulder for input on guidelines for major events

Without even a nod to Penticton, the Ministry of Justice has a new planning resource and guidelines for large events like Boonstock.

Without even a nod to Penticton, the Ministry of Justice has announced a new planning resource and guidelines for large events like Boonstock.

According to a release this week from the Ministry of Justice, a group, co-led by the provincial government and the Squamish-Lillooet Regional District, has developed a new set of user-friendly guidelines to assist communities with hosting safe and successful Major Planned Events.

“That’s exactly what I asked for and what they said they would deliver,” Mayor Garry Litke, who, along with the rest of Penticton council, lobbied for provincial oversight of large events during a meeting with Attorney General Suzanne Anton at the Union of B.C. Municipalities conference in September. Other than a couple of conversations with Anton’s assistant deputy minister, Litke said he hasn’t been in touch with the Ministry of Justice.

“We gave them a pretty detailed analysis of what the needs were, so maybe they didn’t feel the need to consult,” said Litke. “I don’t really care about the credit, as long as the job gets done. That was my concern.”

According to the press release, the BC Major Planned Event Guidelines are the first of their kind and include a number of templates, checklists and advice and were developed, in part, as a response to lessons learned at previous special events in the province, including the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympic Games, recommendations coming from a review of the 2011 Stanley Cup riot in Vancouver, and major music festivals like the Squamish Valley Music Festival.

“As the first step in a developing suite of planning resources, the guidelines will assist event planners, host communities and agencies, health professionals, security personnel, volunteers and emergency personnel help reduce the potential for public disorder. They are designed to proactively assist with the prevention and management of emergencies and disasters resulting from mass public gatherings,” reads the release.

The new guidelines lack the provincial oversight and regulatory teeth that Litke suggested. But it’s still a step in the right direction, he said.

“This will be helpful. Does it go as far as I would like? I have to take a closer look,” said Litke. “I would like to see something that would say you have to complete this checklist before you can sell tickets.”

Litke speculates the province didn’t go as far as regulatory change because it wouldn’t appear business-friendly.

“You would be putting up impediments. They don’t want to create red tape, they want to be seen as helpful, not obstructionist,” said Litke.

According to the release, a committee was formed in 2012 to “address a perceived gap in guidance for local authorities and event organizers and other public agencies.” The guidelines are intended to complement existing emergency plans, policies and regulations and to be used as a guideline and reference tool for local authorities and other groups.

Litke said the new guidelines would have been an aid for the city and the RCMP when dealing with organizers trying to bring in a new festival.

“Here’s the business model we expect you to emulate, so that in future, a Boonstock concept doesn’t just get to ride in without any kind of guidelines or expectation. It can’t hurt. It’s something that people like myself could point to,” said Litke.  “They came to town and said we are doing it. Superintendent (Kevin) Hewco was scratching his head and I was scratching my head, all trying to figure out how we could make this thing as safe as possible.”

Close to three months after issuing their invoice, the province has still not received payment from Boonstock festival organizers for the nearly $177,000 in policing costs, the province’s 70 per cent portion of the $250,000 RCMP costs.

“The province invoiced the promoter on September 5 for $176,901.10.  No payment has been received yet and the province has been in contact with the promoters urging payment,” Perry Clark, executive director on the Ministry of Justice’s Policing and Security Branch, said in a release. “The $250,000 that the RCMP have cited represents the total costs at 100 per cent. It is up to the federal government to invoice the remaining 30 per cent.”

Policing costs were originally expected to be in the $150,000 range, but spiralled upwards when RCMP identified gaps in private security contracted for the event and called in additional officers to compensate. The RCMP said Boonstock generated 150 police files that saw 38 people lodged in city cells.

Boonstock president Colin Kobza has not returned requests for an interview. He has previously stated he wanted to see a breakdown of the RCMP bill before paying.