If Thunder Bay city council were to consider a plebiscite involving the proposed event centre in Thunder Bay, it would face a tight deadline, according to the City Clerk.
Coun. Linda Rydholm of Neebing ward wants next fall’s election ballot to include a question about whether voters support council’s ongoing process of pursuing an event centre for the downtown north core.
But City Clerk John Hannam says even if there is support from the rest of council, time is running out because the Ontario Municipal Act requires that at least one public meeting be held to discuss the question before it is approved by council.
“If council chooses to go down that route, we don't have a lot of time because the bylaw has to be passed by April 28,” Hannam told CBC News.
“The purpose of that public meeting would be both to get input on that question itself, and to help ensure that the question was straightforward, clear and concise as the legislation says, and not ambiguous, and people weren't confused about what was being asked.”
Hannam said when Thunder Bay held a plebiscite on the issue of smoking in public places and workplaces in 2003, it took 4 months to do all the preparations.
Council will consider Rydholm’s proposal on Monday, though many councillors have said they are not in favour of holding a plebiscite at this time.
Counc. Larry Hebert has said he will ask his colleagues Monday to consider a range of options for getting public feedback, including a plebiscite.
Groups line up for and against
A plebiscite is also opposed by a group called Citizens for a Waterfront Event Centre Committee (C4WEC). It claims it now has 1,800 members — double the number it had last month.
“Coun. Lynda Rydholm has indicated that she will put forward a ballot question at next Monday’s council meeting. Members of C4WEC believe that it is premature for a plebiscite to be included in the upcoming election,” a release from the group read.
“There is not enough time for council to properly consider the issue, given the cost and the stakes involved in asking a legally binding question to the population of Thunder Bay.”
Opposition to the current plan for the event centre has been led by a group called Concerned Taxpayers of Thunder Bay.
It plans a rally before Monday's council meeting, while C4WEC will hold a recruitment rally the following week.