Burns Lake council discussed their position on the proposed new college during a regular council meeting on Jan. 11

Burns Lake council discussed their position on the proposed new college during a regular council meeting on Jan. 11

Council passes the buck on college

“We can’t be the decision makers,” say councillors

During last week’s council meeting, Burns Lake council refrained from taking a position on the proposed new college.

A local group called rural post-secondary education committee (RPEC) has been working to establish a campus of the Nicola Valley Institute of Technology (NVIT) in Burns Lake. If RPEC’s plan is successful, the new campus would replace the College of New Caledonia (CNC) in Burns Lake.

Council has received letters requesting their support from both RPEC and CNC.

Burns Lake’s new councillor Michael Riis-Christianson said this shouldn’t be a council decision since this affects the whole community.

“I’m intrigued by the proposal put forward by RPEC; however, I think there needs to be more community discussion on it,” said Riis-Christianson. “I’m definitely in favour of the Ministry [of Advanced Education] leading these discussions and consultations.”

Councillor John Illes agreed with Riis-Christianson’s comments.

“For me, this is not a council decision,” said Illes. “We have the council of Granisle, we have the council of Fraser Lake, all these people are local college users; how come they are not part of the decision making process?”

“We can’t be the decision makers,” he added. “This is not right, this is a decision of the Ministry of Advanced Education; we can be consulted, but we cannot be leading the decision making process.”

On Aug. 18, 2016, the Village of Burns Lake sent a letter to the B.C. minister of advanced education saying council supported the concept of NVIT establishing a rural campus in Burns Lake.

“We are requesting that you engage with NVIT to establish a post-secondary education institution in the Lakes District,” said the letter signed by former Mayor Luke Strimbold.

Illes suggested that the letter sent on Aug. 18 should be rescinded.

Burns Lake’s newly elected Mayor Chris Beach said he respected council’s opinions on this. However, he said he supports establishing an NVIT campus in Burns Lake.

“It’s extremely sad what has happened,” said Beach, referring to the cutbacks and restructuring at CNC. “If you look at the programs that were offered a few years ago, there were a lot of programs that were offered there.”

“So myself I feel that I’m willing to go on a new direction,” continued Beach. “To me it’s an obvious choice; we need to think about jobs and opportunities and what’s best for the community.”

Councillor Kelly Holliday said the non-aboriginal community should also be consulted.

“I don’t believe any consultation has been done with the non-aboriginal community – the greater Granisle, Fraser Lake, Houston, Southside – who’s going to be using the college,” said Holliday. “I know people in the non-aboriginal community who want to attend the college, so we need to be talking to them too.”

At the end of the discussions, council decided to send a letter to the Ministry of Advanced Education to request a meeting to discuss a formalized decision making process. The letter will state that council expects the ministry to lead the decision making process and make the final call.