Rossland councillor’s steady barking losing bite

If councillor Laurie Charlton is Rossland’s watchdog, then Mayor Greg Granstrom and administrator Victor Kumar are his natural adversaries, who with their impeccable grooming habits would make them two pretty cool cats. And true to form, whenever Charlton starts growling, the hair goes up on their backs.

Last week, Charlton was asked to leave council chambers after repeated requests from the mayor to “wrap it up.” The police were called, followed by a strained, protracted apology and in the end, a notice of motion by Charlton to fire the CAO.

Charlton tends to go on a bit as good guard dogs will, but his allegation that Kumar made libelous comments is a stretch at best; however, his own comments regarding the “despicable and disgraceful actions” of a “bullying” mayor just might qualify.

True, the mayor did muzzle Charlton suspiciously soon after the councillor inquired about an appended request for qualifications in selecting an engineering firm and passed the infrastructure bylaw without further discussion.

Perhaps they are only acting out of innate instinct. It doesn’t matter what the mayor or administrator say, Charlton invariably disagrees. Not that a contrarian is necessarily bad, politicians need a healthy dose of checks and balances, a pit bull ready to bite at any moment.

Unfortunately, the good councillor seems to assume the most sinister of intention – as if Granstrom and Kumar were plotting a march on Poland rather than passing a bylaw to improve Rossland’s aging infrastructure or replace a dysfunctional tax panel.

No one can challenge his work ethic — Charlton comes to each meeting heavily armed and prepared. He consistently brings poignant objections and proposals to the table, however more often, they are dismissed by a council and staff whose eyes roll over every time he speaks.

His points are often long and ponderous, and his extreme dissection of policy and repetition of his assaults are anathema to serious consideration in a confined space. Any relevant points are lost in the noise of his rhetoric.

The citizens of Rossland need their watchdog but a good dog knows that it can’t lose its teeth for barking.

Speaking of cats and dogs, the photo of Jay Mykietyn holding up a 160-pound cougar brought the question of hunting to the forefront this past month.

The ‘antis,’ as hunters call them, are a considerable lobby group and dwindling rural populations over the years have limited the hunter’s voice to but a whisper in a blizzard of animal rights activity.

But things are beginning to change. In addition, to the strong response from hunters to the article and photo, not too long ago a committed anti-hunting group embraced the hunting and fishing creed. The Sierra Club changed its policy to allow for acceptable management of hunting and fishing areas based on valid biological data and healthy populations.

They recognized that most hunters and fishing organizations are serious about conservation. Two fine examples are the Trail Wildlife Association and the Nelson Rod and Gun Club that promote conservation, are stewards of the Land Conservancy, feed ungulates in Fort Shepherd, bighorns in Salmo and the Arrow Lakes, monitor the Murphy Creek spawning channel, transplant populations of mountain goats, increase awareness and much more.

The Guide Outfitters Association of British Columbia report that hunters bring in $350 million to B.C. annually; it’s a shame the government continues to make cuts to conservation and implement unsound policy decisions.

Local hunters are still upset with last fall’s elk hunt and are lobbying for restrictions for this season. Many of them work with groups that fund wildlife research, enhance salmon streams, improve habitat for various species and protect wildlife with patrols and highway reflectors.

The last thing they want to see is a pristine wilderness divested of its wildlife or turned into a condo development.

In the end, hunting is an intensely personal pursuit often shared with family and friends, which forges lifetime bonds. Hunters are a proud and self-conscious bunch but they won’t mince words —  it’s like the controversial subject of fighting in hockey, you either agree with it, or you simply don’t know what the hell you are talking about.

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Jim Bailey is a reporter with the Times