Compromise seems to have quelled the public furor over a council decision to move the Canada Day fireworks event to the August long weekend.
The decision had sparked a public protest in front of Sicamous’ civic centre on Monday, June. 3. Coun. Terry Rysz, who had supported the decision, told those present that they had been heard, and that the matter would be brought back to council. Subsequently, at a special meeting held Friday, June 7, council voted to rescind the previous decision and move the fireworks display back to Canada Day.
Afterwards, council voted in favour of another motion, to split the $20,000 the district has budgeted for fireworks this year so as to hold two shows, with 75 per cent of the funding going towards one on Canada Day, and 25 per cent towards a second in August.
These decisions were preceded by comments to the packed council chamber gallery from meeting chair, Mayor Darrell Trouton. He explained the vote to keep fireworks on the August long weekend – when they were held last year on account of the state of emergency the community was in throughout July – was valid and legal. The mayor also noted he has a vote on all matters, and that no one abstains from voting.
“We are not here to force opinion upon others, but listen to the opinion of others,” said Trouton. “At the end of the day, council makes a decision that it feels is best for the community as a whole. While we can’t please everyone, we can listen to everyone.”
Overall, the meeting was civil, though on more than one occasion Trouton was prompted to warn the audience that outbursts would not be tolerated.
“We are going to keep this very orderly, and that will be a first warning,” stated Trouton upon receiving a critical comment from the gallery. “After that, we will remove people from the chamber or ask you to leave please. Just so you know, we do plan on keeping this an orderly meeting.”
Two RCMP officers were stationed at the council chamber doors throughout. Trouton said after the meeting that it was important council did not feel intimidated.
“The RCMP were here to make sure that things didn’t get out of hand,” said Trouton. “I’ve been at other meetings where you want to remove somebody from the chamber because they’re speaking out or not behaving themselves and then you have to wait for the RCMP to get here. They were in the area and it was nice to have them here.”
Council’s decision to move fireworks back to July 1st was reached fairly quickly and with little debate. After the decision, and the following applause, however, Trouton gave another speech, this time delving into the history of the Canada Day fireworks and how it went from a $1,000 community-funded event in 2004, to a $10,000 event in 2006 funded by the district, to an $18,000 event in 2012.
“The idea and the gist is, our community has been struggling. there are businesses up and down our streets that have been struggling, there are businesses in receivership. And people have to look at things…,” said Trouton, who then went on to explain how this year the Thompson Okanagan Tourism Association and Shuswap Tourism are looking to focus on and showcase the community this August, when the district is hoping to bring back Moose Mouse Days. He then went on to recommend a motion to split the fireworks funding 50-50, for fireworks shows on July 1st and on August long weekend. District administrator Heidi Frank said the company that oversees the fireworks said there was enough funding to have “a spectacular display with little repetition” on both days. But this did not sit well with council. Busch did not want to see any split. Coun Hutchinson was concerned how the split would impact the volume of fireworks on Canada Day, and suggested amending the mayor’s motion to a 75-25 split, with the idea that the August event could be built up over time.
“I do agree with the amendment,” said Rysz. “Maybe we can challenge the community to help support us financially to maybe have that bang-up display on the August long weekend. We’ve still got two months to go and I’ve got $100 in my pocket, I’ll throw it towards that.”