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Shuswap Watershed Council service extended for one year, vote planned

Regional district says postponed referendum may occur in February
The CSRD is looking to reschedule a referendum to decide the future of the Shuswap Watershed Council in early Feb. 2024. (Darren Robinson photo)

A new voting date is to be set for the Shuswap Watershed Council referendum that was postponed in August.

Due to the evacuations caused by the Bush Creek East wildfire, Columbia Shuswap Regional District (CSRD) residents were unable to attend ballot stations on Aug. 26 as was originally scheduled and a provincial ministerial order was issued to cancel the voting day.

Read more: General voting day for Shuswap Watershed Council cancelled

In a post by the regional district on Sept. 28, three days after the wildfire was considered ‘held’ and no longer ‘out of control’, it was announced that a new general voting day will be set for a Saturday in early February 2024.

The CSRD said ballots already cast for the referendum in the advance and mail-in voting phases will be securely retained until the new date is officially set and all votes will be included in the count.

Cancellation of voting was required in areas directly affected by wildfire and ensuing evacuation orders, including Electoral Areas F (North Shuswap) and G (Blind Bay, Sorrento and Notch Hill). Both are part of the Shuswap Watershed Council’s (SWC) referendum voting area, along with the District of Sicamous and electoral areas C, D and E, said the CSRD.

The regional district used a ‘special voting referendum’ and on Aug. 21, 2023, voted to give three readings to an amendment bylaw that extends the watershed council’s service by one year, until Dec. 31, 2024. The CSRD board adopted this at the September board meeting, reads a CSRD media release.

“The Shuswap Watershed Council service may continue to be funded and remain in operation for an additional year, pending the results of the assent voting,” said the CSRD.

In 2015, the board adopted with elector assent a bylaw to contribute funds to the SWC. The bylaw included a sunset clause requiring voter assent for the SWC to continue operation beyond 2020. Due to the pandemic, the board sought and received permission to extend the service without the assent of the public until Dec. 31, 2023.

If the referendum is held in February and the vote is no, the Shuswap Watershed Council would be longer have services funded and would expire on Dec. 31, 2024. If the referendum result is a yes, the service could continue in perpetuity.

The CSRD is now looking for appropriate voting locations to allow for a general voting day in February, and once this has been determined, an official date will be set. Another mail-in ballot option will also be set up for eligible voters to cast referendum ballots.

Read more: Shuswap’s Bush Creek East wildfire ‘being held’

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Rebecca Willson

About the Author: Rebecca Willson

I took my first step into the journalism industry in November 2022 when I moved to Salmon Arm to work for the Observer and Eagle Valley News. I graduated with a journalism degree in December 2021 from MacEwan University in Edmonton.
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