To appeal for a referendum on councils decision of allowing a commercially-operated waterslide in Skaha Park is now redundant.
Why, because the mayor and council signed the contract legally (to be challenged in court), taking away the rights of residents to vote on a referendum. Council procedure; if an issue such as the Trio contract is put before councils agenda for a vote, then if a councillor puts forward a motion on whether the contract should go to a referendum then a motion to hold a referendum should then be introduced and voted upon. The main motion is not debated, the contract. No member of this council introduced such a motion for discussion, prior to the awarding of the contract. Because, council believed that the 2004 Parks bylaw gave them that authority to award the contract.
The mayor and council could have legally, under the Municipal Charter, taken the initial question back onto their agenda for re-consideration to hold off on the signing of the Trio contract and conduct a referendum. The Municipal Charter requires two thirds of councils vote to bring an issue back for reconsideration. Conversely, so can the mayor. No motion to that effect was ever suggested nor introduced to hold off on the signing of the contract despite the protests. You must remember that the contract with Trio was not signed at the time we were all protesting. So legally there would have been no default on council’s part to rescind their original motion and have the contract decided by a referendum.
The mayor having signed the contract that evening we were all outside protesting, “legally ruled out” the residents appeal to hold a referendum. This unfortunately means that any protest, rally to try to persuade this council to hold a referendum now, although well intentioned, is too late.
At this point council cannot legally rescind the contract to hold a referendum without a possible financial penalty. Even if the councils decision to grant the commercial use of a popular public 100-year park is overturned by the court, the issue is finalized and would not be brought back for reconsideration by council. Unless, of course, this council wishes to commit political suicide by suggesting, after a court ruling against their initial decision to award the contract, they decide to bring the question of spending an additional $34,000 on a referendum for commercial use of Skaha Park back onto the agenda.
Then is the time to once again hold a rally outside city hall, which may again fall on deaf ears.
There are four options before council to settle the 29-year lease of pristine Skaha Park. 1) is to have the court overturn the contract, 2) have Trio remove their application to construct a waterslide and keep the Marina, 3) have Trio withdraw their contract completely and 4) have Trio default on the contract.
This is the approach SSPS’s legal council will be taking to the court on behalf of all the Penticton residents who contributed their monies to fight this council’s decision. Hopefully this council will find a solution to this political mess they have created by failing to recognize how sacred Skaha Park’s green space is to its residents and visitors alike.