The Terrace and District Chamber of Commerce (TDCC) has determined those who drafted the letter to “Northern Gateway and Other Investors”
will not be identified. Carol Fielding, the Executive Director of the TDCC, stated today there was a committee that composed the letter. Specifically she explained it was a policy committee that met and discussed composing the letter; two Chamber members who are not board members and two directors, one of whom was Gordon Stamp Vincent, the signatory on the letter. When asked who the non-directors were Fielding suggested she would first need to ask to see if she could release their names.
“I have discussed your request with the Committee, it is the consensus that the letter was drafted & approved by the Board and how the idea began is not relevant to the outcome. So the responsibility for the letter belongs to the Chamber Board.” Fielding responded by email.
A phone conversation with Stamp-Vincent received the same response.
“Who is all on that committee that wrote the letter?” we asked.
“Oh it doesn’t matter, it’s just a committee within the chamber. I think the important thing is that the board approved the letter, and that’s what’s important.” replied Stamp-Vincent.
When challenged again on whom the non-board members were he replied, “They’ve asked not to have their names released so I’ll respect their wishes.”
The opening sentence of the letter states, “We, the Terrace and District Chamber of Commerce, “the voice of business”, are very concerned with the latest position of our City Council, as one of opposition to your project,”
and this statement had Councillor Bidgood raising concerns and asking questions.
First he stated he pondered if the City and the Terrace Economic Development Authority wasn’t part of this “leading voice” and then asked, “How can they talk of speaking for the voice of business for the community if they haven’t spoken [to the businesses]?” Bidgood stated he had contact with numerous small business people and “not a single one” had been asked or contacted by the Chamber on this issue.
Fielding acknowledged they had not contacted any businesses to gain their position on drafting this letter stating the membership elects the board and the board then considers they have the authority to make these types of decisions on their behalf.
“We took a position that they’re elected by the membership and that they should use their judgement where they don’t have the time to poll,” stated Fielding adding, “and as you know, polls are not a true indication.”
The same issue occurred with the HST debate when the TDCC took a position in favour, supporting the Liberal government when it became apparent the vast majority of businesses opposed the HST. This Fielding stated came from the Provincial wing of the Chamber of Commerce.
“Chambers across BC take their lead from the BC Chamber which is sort of our governing body. So sometimes when we’re not sure what we should be saying or thinking or doing, with respect to policy perhaps, we go to the BC Chamber.”
Councillor Bidgood stated he found the entire affair distasteful. “It was unfortunate and not forthright. If the Chamber has concerns about policies of the City of Terrace than I would expect they would come forward to Terrace and present their positions as a delegation.”
Bidgood explained they had not received any correspondence or any other form of communication on this issue from the Chamber.
“They didn’t make their position known to council in terms of correspondence and they didn’t come and give us their position by delegation. It makes it very problematic to listen to the Chamber or to include their feedback meaningfully into our decisions when they don’t articulate them. […] To go after the fact and say you did it all wrong doesn’t seem quite fair.”
Prior to the previous municipal election the TDCC approached the City Council on numerous occasions, almost twice monthly in an attempt to secure a full time paid position for the Mayor. It was widely believed the TDCC supported David Pernarowski for Mayor and this repeated attempt to secure a full time wage was, it appeared, to retain him in this position. The TDCC had unanimously supported Pernarowski as their President in the fall of 2007 (after he was fired as manager of the Scotia Bank) even though he was no longer an executive or a business owner. Prior to this he had assisted the TDCC in dissolving the Terrace Tourism Society. Story here
At Terrace City Council on Monday evening, February 13, after repeatedly stating he could do the math, referring to it being obvious the resolution to oppose the Enbridge project and tankers in the north coastal waters would pass, and after repeatedly stating he would stand arm in arm with the wishes of the citizens, Mayor Pernarowski raised his hand in opposition to the wishes of his Council body representing the wishes of the citizens.
The Mayor had the option of not raising his hand at all. As he stated, he could do the math. The question must be asked, who did he raise his hand for?
When asked about taking a position in opposition to the City and about the chamber receiving financial benefits from the City Carol Fielding stated they didn’t receive any money from the City. She did not apparently consider the City providing the Chamber a $6000 permissive tax grant. The City also hosts the TDCC website on their website home page along with the Kermodei Tourism Society and TEDA (Terrace Economic Development Authority).
When questioned about this as being far from an arms length relationship, Bidgood responded affirmatively, “You don’t see the District Labour Council there, do you?”
As far as the authors of this letter attacking the City’s position and supporting Enbridge Northern Gateway remaining anonymous, this might be one of the more cowardly positions taken by the Terrace and District Chamber of Commerce. Lael McEwan and Steve Smythe have stood up and proclaimed their stance in writing as well as to other media. These are individuals, whether one agrees with their stance or not, who can be respected for standing up for their convictions.
For the TDCC to keep their membership lists along with the authors of such a letter secret, in clear opposition to a vote taken by the highest political authority in the City, is akin to the brown shirts of one of the sadder parts of the last century. Many names come to mind, Bert Husband (TDCC Past President) and Gerry Martin (a Liberal insider) but after considering the stance taken on the HST and the statement by BC MLA and Minister of Energy, Mines and Petroleum Resources, Rich Coleman
it may very well be the letter was originally drafted in Victoria.
"How the idea began is not relevant to the outcome" wrote Fielding.
"I think the important thing is that the board approved the letter" stated Stamp-Vincent.
It could be seen to be timelier as the argumentative stance by Coleman was written on February 16 while the TDCC letter wasn’t released until the 17th. In that case it would be wise to keep the author secret. The bigger question is how the politics in the region are being influenced by outside and anonymous sources.
Use your eyes.