British Columbia

Andrew Weaver, John Horgan and Christy Clark to receive apology from government leaders in northern B.C.

The North Central Local Government Association is apologizing for a letter it sent to B.C.'s lieutenant-governor, expressing concern over the constitutionality of an agreement between the provincial NDP and Green Party leaders.

Organization president expressed concern NDP-Green agreement could be 'an unconstitutional scheme'

The president of a local government association in northern B.C. questioned whether an agreement between Green Party Leader Andrew Weaver and NDP Leader John Horgan was an 'unconstitutional scheme'. (Richard Zussman/CBC News)

The North Central Local Government Association is apologizing for a letter it sent to B.C. Lt.-Gov. Judith Guichon expressing concern over the constitutionality of an agreement between the provincial NDP and Green Party leaders.

The president of the association, Dawson Creek Coun. Shaely Wilbur, sent the letter to Guichon Friday afternoon on behalf of the association, which represents 42 local governments in northern and central B.C.

The letter expressed two primary concerns: the effect a change in government could have on resource-based communities in the north and whether the NDP-Green agreement was constitutional.

"Undisclosed side agreements and informal understandings are not uncommon in government," Wilbur wrote. "But when the informal contracts and discussions involve a major shift in governance, it leaves communities unprepared and vulnerable."

"Respectfully, if the Crown acts in reliance on the agreement, we are concerned that the Crown could be condoning an unconstitutional scheme."

'Quite an inappropriate intervention'

Although the letter stated the NCLGA is non-partisan and Wilbur was not advocating for any particular party, other northern leaders saw things differently.

"The question that I would ask is would this letter have gone out if the same dialogue, backroom deals that she's talking about, led to a Liberal-Green coalition?" asked Quesnel Mayor Bob Simpson, calling for the letter to be rescinded.

"I doubt it very much." 

Listen to interviews with Simpson and Wilbur about the letter.

Smithers Mayor Taylor Bachrach tweeted that he viewed the letter as "quite an inappropriate intervention" and was echoed by several other regional politicians.

Letter rescinded

On Tuesday, the NCLGA board convened an emergency meeting in which it unanimously voted to rescind the letter and issue apologies to the lieutenant-governor, NCGLA members and the leaders of all three provincial parties.

"It was an error to send a letter on behalf of all NCLGA local government members without a thorough vetting by the board members duly elected and appointed by them," the statement said.

"The NCLGA Board sincerely regrets this and will be taking immediate action to ensure this does not happen again."

NCLGA executive director Oliver Ray said many local politicians from the region had contacted his office expressing concern about the letter.

"It was perceived as partisan and untimely and inappropriate," he said. 

"It was an overwhelming response."

Wilbur, who is staying on as president, directed interview requests to the NCLGA office.

However, in a previously circulated letter to members she apologized to anyone upset by the letter and reiterated that she had meant to advocate on behalf of the north and not for any political party.

She also acknowledged she is a member of the B.C. Liberals but said that personal affiliation did not affect her decision to raise concerns.

"My only concern was the structure of the contract in question and not at all on anyone's plans for the future of the province," she said.

Who speaks for the north?

Ray said the incident highlighted a lack of policy around who can speak for the NCLGA and what form of approval they need to receive before doing so.

"That will be discussed at a subsequent meeting," he said. "I think it will be clearly stated in our policy and protocols.

Simpson said he looked forward to the changes and will be pushing to make sure the NCLGA continues to reflect the views of all its members.

"It needs to be a true member-driven organization, not an executive organization," he said.

Mobile users: read the letter.


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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Andrew Kurjata

CBC Prince George | @akurjata

Andrew Kurjata is an award-winning journalist covering Northern British Columbia for CBC Radio and cbc.ca, situated in unceded Lheidli T'enneh territory in Prince George. You can email him at andrew.kurjata@cbc.ca. You can also send encrypted messages using Signal to 250.552.2058.

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