A proposal from Gibsons’ economic development select committee met with some resistance during the Oct. 15 council meeting, with one councillor questioning whether the idea had any direct bearing on economic development.
The proposal — for a series of moderated “eco-dialogues” that would focus on the Town’s natural assets — “is a very oblique way to approach stimulating the economy,” Coun. Gerry Tretick said at the meeting. “I’m sorry. I just can’t get enthused.”
The brainchild of committee member Dorothy Riddle, the series would be held in Gibsons every two months starting in early 2014, with each focused on a particular natural asset, such as the aquifer, eelgrass beds, forest or foreshore.
The two-hour public dialogues would feature scientists and other experts to give talks in “plain language,” Riddle said in her proposal to council. Each session would end with a moderated discussion of potential best practices and action steps.
But Tretick said he didn’t see the series as an economic development initiative.
“I see it as an environmental initiative and possibly an asset management initiative.
And when we created the economic development committee, I was looking for a committee that produced initiatives that help create jobs (and) stimulated the economy,” he said.
While acknowledging the issues were important, Tretick said he feared the focus of the series would foster negative attitudes toward development, “because these people will see it as possibly harming the environment.”
Riddle defended the proposal, noting that in her experience, “something that increases the stature of the Town does result in economic development initiatives occurring.”
The series, she said, would be “setting the stage for Gibsons to be recognized as an area where proactive initiatives are taking place to address issues that many municipalities face in terms of infrastructure and in terms of their relationship with their natural assets.”
Acknowledging it wasn’t the conventional way of doing economic development, Coun. Charlene SanJenko, also a committee member, spoke in favour of the series.
“One thing that I’m passionate about is the positioning and branding of Gibsons, and we don’t have a budget to support that per se, so we have to be very resourceful in how we’re getting that out there,” SanJenko said.
Coun. Dan Bouman thanked Riddle for taking the lead in what he called a “brilliant project” that was “entirely appropriate under the banner of economic development.”
Tretick, however, was not convinced, arguing that the Town would be undertaking such initiatives anyway, as it did the aquifer-mapping project.
“But I’d like to see the economic development committee actually work on some economic development projects,” he said
Riddle asked Tretick not to take the proposal out of context, as it was “only one very, very small item” that will be part of the committee’s economic development strategy framework, which will be presented to council next month.
With no funding being asked from the Town, Mayor Wayne Rowe suggested Riddle “give it a try,” and added some levity to the debate by quipping, “Coun. Tretick took his grumpy pills this morning.”
Council voted to adopt the proposal, with Tretick abstaining.
“I’m gonna wait and see,” he said.