Editor, The Times:
I am writing in response to your editorial about the Upper Clearwater Farmers’ Institute hall.
I object very much to the suggestion that the taxpayers of the Upper Clearwater should continue to support the hall through our taxes.
The Upper Clearwater hall does NOT belong to the citizens of the Upper Clearwater. You can check with the BC Assessment Authority: it belongs to a special interest group, the Upper Clearwater Farmers’ Institute. It is no different that any other special interest group, be it the Elks, the Legion, or dozens of others: if you wish to be a member, you apply to join and pay a membership fee.
How do you think the citizens of Clearwater would react if told that the Legion and Elks, both good organizations with excellent records of community involvement, would henceforth have their halls supported by a special tax levied against all landowners in Clearwater District? Do you think people might say, “But I don’t belong to either of those groups. Why am I paying the operating costs for their halls? Why aren’t they doing fundraisers, collecting membership dues, encouraging rentals? Why are they just sitting there, hands out, looking for MY tax dollars, instead of supporting themselves?”
The landowners of the Upper Clearwater have supported the UCFI hall for the past 10 years, through our taxes. What I did not know, until I recently read the UCFI file (obtained from the TNRD under Freedom Of Information) is how that tax was implemented.
In 2004, two members of the UCFI approached the TNRD with the suggestion of levying a tax on all landowners in the Upper Clearwater, stating that the UCFI “represented” the landowners. This was not the truth. No doubt some of the landowners were members of the UCFI, but not all of us by any means – and we had never been asked if we wanted the UCFI to “represent” us in any matters.
The resulting voting process was an appalling travesty of democratic principles. Not only was the “deadline” for submission of ballots (which the TNRD calls “petitions”) extended three times, but, when there were clearly not going to be sufficient affirmative ballots, the TNRD gave a UCFI director copies of all of the ballots that had not yet been submitted.
By not submitting a ballot, that was taken as a “NO” vote. Not only was this an astonishing breach of privacy, but it clearly indicated TNRD-sanctioned approval to attempt to convince those people, by whatever means possible, to support the tax.
The original deadline for submission of ballots was July 30, 2004. They finally managed to obtain sufficient affirmative votes by the middle of October, at which point the byLaw was established.
And did you know that the Upper Clearwater Hall was given a vote? The hall doesn’t pay taxes, but it was given a vote. However, the university, which owns 2 parcels of land (and also doesn’t pay taxes) was not given a vote. Interesting, that.
I realize that this is all Ancient History – but I believe it is a good idea to right old wrongs. I think it is a very good thing that the TNRD is asking valley landowners if they are willing to continue paying this tax – or not, as the case may be.
This time, we have been promised, it will be done fairly. There will be no arbitrary extension of deadlines, in hopes of getting more of the “right kind” of vote. There will be no release of duplicate copies of the ballots to a third party, to attempt to influence the outcome.
Should valley residents vote in favour of continuing the tax, then so be it – but if sufficient people say, “Enough already!” then the UCFI should perhaps meet with the good folks who run the Elks Hall, or the Legion Hall, and get some pointers on how to be self-supporting.
Ellen Ferguson, landowner
Upper Clearwater, B.C.