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Beleaguered Harrison Hot Springs council cannot move to dissolve: Municipal Affairs

No legislative provisions allow for council to fire themselves, ministry says
There are no legislative provisions to dissolve Harrison’s council, according to the Ministry of Municipal Affairs. (Observer File Photo)

Can Harrison Hot Springs officials dissolve their council? Provincial law says “no.”

Mayor Ed Wood moved to have a letter written to Minister of Municipal Affairs Anne Kang asking her to dissolve all of council and the village CAO and to appoint a lone trustee in their place. This was defeated by a vote of 2-2, with Wood and Coun. John Allen in support. Coun. Allan Jackson was absent.

According to Elections BC, there is currently no recall process for mayors or councillors in the province. While Elections BC enforces the Recall and Initiative Act, it applies only to provincial MLAs.

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The Ministry of Municipal Affairs further confirmed that there were no legislative provisions for dissolving a council and replacing them with a trustee.

“It is the responsibility of council to consider and implement these recommendations,” the ministry told The Observer. “This will require a commitment from council members and the community, and may take time. The ministry is in regular contact with the Village of Harrison Hot Springs and will continue to be available to provide guidance and facilitate additional support going forward.”

The province has some power when it comes to municipalities and boards across B.C. There are provisions for the dissolution of municipalities themselves – most often when they’re being incorporated into a new municipality or regional district. Moreover, the province can dissolve school boards and replace them with an official trustee. This was the case in 2016, when then-education ministry Mike Bernier fired the members of the Vancouver school district for failing to comply with the School Act, which requires the board to adopt a balanced budget.

In addition to the Vancouver school board’s non-compliance on a balanced budget, the province reported a number of “troubling allegations” of workplace toxicity and bullying.

RELATED: Another Harrison council meeting ends early amid clashes

The provincial most concrete response to the ongoing troubles among Harrison’s governing body was to send an independent municipal advisor. Advisor Ron Poole worked with council in a series of meetings; Wood did not attend at least two of them. Poole made several recommendations to council, presenting his final report last November.

Wood expressed his disappointment that Poole did not investigate allegations of “illegal meetings.” Council voted 3-2 to receive the final report, Wood and Allen opposed.

Harrison’s next regular council meeting is scheduled for April 2.

Adam Louis

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