City leaders or playground punks?

Rob Leggett
By Rob Leggett
July 29th, 2009

Ed. note: this column is half of a he-said/she-said exploration of the current conflict between the RDCK and the City of Castlegar. For a glimpse of the flip side of this particular coin, check out Out of Left Field by Kyra Hoggan. And don’t forget to share your views and comments – your opinion is always welcome!

Poor little City of Castlegar, first it was Celgar bullying them on the playground and now the RDCK is picking on them as well, or so the city would like us to believe. We only need to look at the history of this issue to see that the city is where they are now because city council apparently did not want to take Celgar’s requests for reduced taxation seriously. I think this issue could have been resolved three years ago, had the city been willing to communicate with Celgar, but instead they chose to ignore the requests and behaved, to my mind, like a spoiled child.
They just didn’t want to play fair.

Despite three years of overtures from Celgar, it finally took Celgar withholding their taxes and going to the B.C. Supreme Court for the city to finally pay attention.Such extreme measures to get the city to want to communicate … but then, a $2.8 million loss to the city’s piggy bank probably had something to do with it.

Now that they are faced with a huge hole in their pocketbook, the city apparently thought it would be clever to withhold $375,000 of their tax bill owed to the RDCK and claim that if Celgar doesn’t pay the city, then the city shouldn’t have to pay the RDCK. It makes you think of the playground equivalent of “piggy in the middle”.

In my opinion, this was a juvenile attempt to get the RDCK involved and help them pressure Celgar into paying their taxes. If this was their plan, it only partially worked. RDCK did get involved, but not in the way the City of Castlegar might have hoped. Gordon Zaitsoff has suggested, instead, that Celgar should leave the city’s taxation boundaries and be incorporated into the RDCK.

In response to this Russ Hearne stated, “It is undermining the city and it doesn’t help any of the problems at hand,” but I don’t think he would have responded quite so harshly had Zaitsoff been speaking in the city’s favour.

What’s more, I believe if the city was really worried about their talks with Celgar being undermined, they should have attempted to resolve this issue long before now – the city has successfully undermined any discussions with Celgar a long time ago, all on their own. It’s a little late to start bringing in other players to blame.

Zaitsoff responded in a reasonable manner to a situation where Celgar could possibly take their bat and ball and go home, and in a community where solid employment opportunities are hard to find, he may be saving hundreds of jobs in this area. Zaitsoff might just be pointing out the obvious, that if Celgar believes that the City of Castlegar isn’t negotiating in good faith … well, then there are other options left to Celgar to consider, and the RDCK ,for one, might be willing to play fair.

The City of Castlegar is coming across, to me, as the bossy little kid who tries to make everyone play the game by his rules, making them up as he goes along, butat the end of the day, he’s left all alone while everyone else starts a new game without him. Sadly, it appears that everyone is looking for a new game to play, and if Gordon Zaitsoff has his way Celgar and the RDCK will be new BFFs and the City of Castlegar won’t be asked to play anymore at all.

And the scary part is, for the residents of Castlegar and the region, this is not a game at all.

Categories: Op/Ed


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