By Lethbridge Herald on May 30, 2017.
I attended a recent city council meeting where, by a vote of four to three, council determined that receiving over 4,100 citizen signatures wasn’t enough to convince them the issue of the blue bin recycling program should be submitted to a referendum in the upcoming municipal election (I should note that councillors Iwaskiw and Coffman were unable to vote because of illness).
Unfortunately, the presentation of the group seeking a citizen vote on the issue devolved into a bit of a sideshow as to “who said what, to whom, and when,” resulting in the true issue being somewhat lost. The written document submitted to council simply recited the facts regarding what had been approved by council and the fact that council had voted on the issue a number of times. It is important to note the last council vote prior to the one approving the program was a “no” vote, even though, according to senior administration, nothing had changed when the issue resurfaced to transform into a “yes” vote.
There was also confusion raised by one council spokesperson who suggested the 10 per cent of the population threshold was not reached for the “petition.” That representative was conflating two separate provisions of the Municipal Government Act. The one dealing with petitions does refer to the threshold and, if the threshold and timelines are met, it requires a vote of the citizens which is binding on city council. The request that was before council dealt with a completely different provision of the Act which didn’t have threshold requirements; it was simply asking council to put the vote requested before the electors. Under this provision, council is not bound by any such vote.
In short, the citizens who appeared before council were asking them to submit a specific and simple question to voters at the next election, being: “Are you in favour of the blue bin curbside recycling program approved by city council?”
Nobody is against recycling as is evidenced by the buy-in of citizens in the existing recycling depots and the utilization of the current private curbside recycling providers. What citizens are asking for is the chance to vote on an issue that has divided council previously. If the vote is “yes,” everyone can rest easy that they had a chance to vote on it at least once. If the vote is “no,” council can ignore it.
Council had numerous chances to vote on the issue; please let the citizens have one chance to do so.