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Jumbo incorporation announcement prompts criticism

Minister of Community, Sport and Cultural Development Bill Bennett announced today that Cabinet has approved the incorporation of Jumbo as a mountain resort municipality.

A municipal council has been appointed for a term ending Nov. 30, 2014, and an interim corporate officer has also been named and will serve until the first council meeting of the new municipality.

Appointed as Jumbo’s first mayor and councillors are Greg Deck, Nancy Hugunin and Steve Ostrander. Phil Taylor will be the interim corporate officer, ensuring that the municipality is operational by its incorporation date of Feb. 19, 2013.

Jumbo Glacier Resort’s Master Development Agreement was approved in March 2012, following a 20-year review process and extensive consultation that informed and developed the Environmental Assessment Certificate, Resort Master Plan and Master Development Agreement.

In 2009, the Regional District of East Kootenay requested that the B.C. government incorporate Jumbo as a mountain resort municipality. In May 2012, government amended the Local Government Act to clarify provincial authority to incorporate a mountain resort municipality whether or not there are residents in the area at the time of incorporation.

The announcement was met with criticism from Columbia River-Revelstoke MLA Norm Macdonald and from the Ktunaxa Chair.

“I’ve not spoken to anyone outside the B.C. Liberal party who thinks that this legislation makes sense,” said Macdonald.  “To create a town where there are no residents, to appoint a council that may never face election, and do this with no real possibility that a resort will be built is ridiculous.  But a small group of Jumbo supporters are getting their way on this one: transferring control of public lands into private hands.”

Macdonald said the timing of the announcement is also suspect. Even as the Ktunaxa are continuing to fight the resort in court, the Liberals are trying to ram the development through by early 2013. Late last spring, as part of their final crush of bills, the Liberals gave themselves the power to arbitrarily create a mountain resort municipality without residents.

“This once again shows the disdain demonstrated by the BC government towards our spiritual beliefs and the foundations of our culture,” said Kathryn Teneese, Ktunaxa Nation Chair. “We have clearly and consistently indicated that if this resort is built, it will critically damage our religious rights and freedoms, as well as our aboriginal rights, all of which are recognized by the Canadian Constitution.”

The Ktunaxa Nation had already planned a rally to take place on November 30th in Cranbrook, which coincides with the official filing of the application for judicial review of the approval of the controversial resort. The rally will start at the new Ktunaxa Government Building in downtown Cranbrook at noon, and a march will proceed to the Courthouse where the court proceedings are expected to take place.

The year-round ski resort will be located at the foot of Jumbo Mountain and Jumbo Glacier, 55 km west of Invermere. The $450-million resort is planned in three phases and will ultimately include 5,500 bed-units in a 104-hectare resort base area. It is projected to provide approximately 3,750 person years of construction employment and create 750 to 800 permanent full-time jobs.

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