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Council votes for modified moratorium on camp accommodations

Last Updated Jan 28, 2019 at 11:18 pm MDT

PHOTO. Mayor Scott and Council met for nearly six hours on Jan. 28 to debate and vote on the moratorium on camp accommodations. File Photo supplied by Melanie Walsh.

In the spirit of collaboration and compromise, Council emerged from chambers united unanimously voting in favour of a ban on new camp accommodations with “limited exceptions” for exploration, turnaround, maintenance, and capital projects.

Defeats to an amendment from Councillor Jane Stroud, and then to Mayor Don Scott’s original motion, led the Council to devise a new strategy.

Before voting down both motions, Councillor Mike Allen cited the history of similar motions in the region that had “unintended consequences” such as the intervention by the Municipality on industry to construct work camps and the stoppage of the lower townsite area redevelopment.

“I am accountable to the residents of this community, to my neighbours, to my friends, and everyone else who is feeling the effects of this economy.”

Three days of presentations from industry, community leaders, business owners, and residents produced a wealth of information for Council to consider. Studies on the toll camp life can have on the workers and their families weren’t lost on the Mayor and Council members like Councillor Jeff Peddle who voted on both the original motion and Stroud’s amendment.

“When a lot of places refer to the sites as ‘family killers’, I think this is something we should all be aware of.”

Peddle also mentioned how camps impacted the hotel industry and unemployment within the region because qualified workers couldn’t get the jobs over others that fly into the region and live in the work camps.

With the Mayor’s motion defeated, Councillor Murphy proposed a new motion for a moratorium with certain modifications and stipulations that all Councillors in attendance found acceptable, and a motion that Mayor Scott said should have a “positive impact”.

“We’re imposing a moratorium with limited exceptions on 61 camps, which should have a positive impact on the region because it will affect 27,256 people living in camps, according to the 2018 Census.”

During the debates, Councillor Murphy reminded everyone about how the Municipality wound up in its current position deciding on a moratorium after it requested industry devise the work camps.

“Years ago, we intervened on projects and told industry to build the camps. We wanted less traffic, we wanted the shorter lines, but give us millions of dollars in revenue through their taxes. Then on top of that, donations for infrastructure, charities, and local events. We overbuilt on our infrastructure, we spent like crazy. No one was accountable, and we helped create this mess. We can’t just blame industry.”

The Council voted unanimously in favour of the councillor’s motion, which was read in two parts.

Considering this landmark, councillor Krista Balsom maintained transportation and infrastructure were key in any changes going forward.

“Transportation is a critical component to anything going forward out of today, and we need to be taking a serious look at working with our industry partners as well as provincial and federal governments to make it a priority.”

Deputy Mayor Keith McGrath, who presided over the debate and voting, commented on the importance of showing leadership in critical times.

“Leadership is making decisions for the whole community, not a vested interest group.”

Now, the administration is now tasked with drafting a bylaw to present before Council at a later date.