Queen Charlotte’s new council was sworn in at the packed, gala event in the community hall Wednesday December 7, Heather Ramsay writes.
The inaugural meeting brought dignitaries from the islands and the northwest, as well as more than 230 members of the public who witnessed the pomp, but also the general workings of a council meeting.
The agenda was packed with reports and bylaws to be discussed, but the evening began with Haida singers, Nika Collison and Irene Mills, and a procession led by two members of the RCMP decked out in their traditional red coats. Following the officers, came the new mayor and council and many of the distinguished guests.
The Gwaii Singers community choir, performed a version of O Canada in four-part harmony after an invocation given by Reverend Sara Eaton.
Ms Eaton, a retired Anglican minister was chosen out of the numerous reverends on island because she is the only one who is actually a resident of the new municipality.
Then came the speeches. First Chief Skidegate, Dempsey Collinson spoke. He congratulated the new mayor and council and said he was happy to see someone he grew up with on council, even though he and Eric Ross may have argued back and forth over the years. He was also pleased to see Kris Olsen, a young man who grew up here himself, on council.
“It’s good to see the town maturing,” said the President of the Haida Nation, Guujaaw.
“Everybody liked to be hippies and build where they liked to build, so it will be a challenge to the Charlotte council to keep them in line,” he said.
Community Services Minister Ida Chong spoke next. She noted Queen Charlotte is part of the long and colourful history of local government in BC, which started in 1860 with the city of New Westminster.
She presented the letters patent to Mayor Carol Kulesha, which authorized the first meeting of the council. She also gave her a gavel, “to ensure her council is orderly and efficient.”
Next she presented an $87,000 cheque for the first of three instalments of the town’s restructuring grant; a $11,500 cheque for the 2005 portion of the Small Community Protection Grant and a promise of the first two-thirds of a BC Community Water Improvement Project. This is a $3.2-million project approved by the province to develop a surface drinking water and treatment facility.
Prince Rupert-based Judge H. J. Seidemann of the Provincial Court then administered the first oath of office to Queen Charlotte’s first mayor. She, as did the councillors who followed, swore that she will not allow private interests to influence her conduct in public matters and that she would disclose any pecuniary interest she may have in council business.
Mayor Kulesha then received a standing ovation from the crowd.
The business of the meeting consisted of recommendations about the hiring of a chief administrative officer and a manager of corporate and financial services.
Debrah Uliana, who served as office manager of the old management committee, was recommended for the latter position. She will also act as acting-administrative officer until such person is hired.
Lawyers, auditors, insurers, and bankers were appointed and a travel expense policy was set. The council will receive an $80 per diem, the cost of such things as hotel, airfare, ferries and $.45 per kilometre for mileage.
Then began the passing of bylaws, which had to be read three times following normal practice. The council will meet the first and third Monday of every month, instead of Wednesdays, which was the management committee’s schedule.
The budget for the community is based on the low-spending assumption of the Incorporation study and will be $1.138 million.
The mayor will receive remuneration of $6,470 per year and the councillors, $3,600. Dave Wilson, the interim administrator, said he surveyed 15 municipalities to assess this figure. Most were slightly higher, but the council decided to pay themselves the same as the council in Masset.
Another bylaw was about tax exemption. Several properties including the Community Club, Skeena-Queen Charlotte Regional District properties, and all the churches will be deemed tax exempt. This bylaw will not be passed until it has been advertised twice in the Observer.
More speeches rounded out the long evening, with people now twitching to get to the impressive spread of goodies waiting at the back of the room.
Member of Parliament Nathan Cullen presented a Canadian flag to the new council.
“Now we need a flag pole,” joked Mayor Kulesha.
MLA Gary Coons presented a mini-flag of BC (it came with a flag pole, commented Mayor Kulesha), and gifts from social service agencies.
Molly York, a hereditary matriarch from Old Massett, said she was proud to see a woman’s perspective brought to such an important leadership role.
“The hand that rocks the cradle, rules this teepee,” she said adding that “we women can’t help crowing a little.”
Masset mayor and chair of the regional district Barry Pages presented a cheque for $190,000, the water and sewer surplus created by the community of Queen Charlotte.
Mayor Herb Pond of Prince Rupert and Mayor Dave McDonald of Port Edward attended along with Mayor Cory Delves of Port Clements and Area director for Sandspit Travis Glasman.
Elizabeth Condrotte, the principal of the Queen Charlotte Secondary School spoke as well and Norma Louis, student council president presented the new council with new pens.
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