As expected, the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing has officially announced the postponement of the April 4 referendum on the Kamloops Centre for the Arts, in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The ministry made the announcement on Wednesday night.
Kamloops Centre for the Arts Society president Norm Daley said the society respects the decision.
“There’s not much to say. Obviously, we have to respect the decision of the province and ensure safety of the people right now,” Daley said.
Kamloops residents were due to head to the polls next week for the first advance voting opportunity.
The referendum was to ask if residents approve of the city borrowing up to $45 million to help build a 120,000-square facility arts centre at the corner of Fourth Avenue and Seymour Street downtown.
The society has put in countless hours behind the proposal and had been ramping up its “Vote Yes” campaign in recent weeks.
“A lot has changed in the last week in the world,” Daley said.
Asked if there is a level of disappointment, given the amount of time volunteers have put into the proposal and campaign, Daley said:
“Obviously, there is a level of disappointment, but that is definitely tempered by the fact that we have to ensure the safety of everybody.
“We have to temper that. I believe that it is not a done deal. It’s not like it’s never going to happen again. It’s going to happen some time in the future.”
Postonements of the referendum, along with byelections in Victoria, Rossland and Lytton, were requested by both public health officials and local governments.
“I know that local governments are working hard to keep their communities safe and protected during this pandemic,” Municipal Affairs Minister Selena Robinson said.
“Our government is working closely with our partners to help marshal all resources to protect those most vulnerable and flattening the curve of the spread of COVID-19.
“After consulting with our public health officials and local governments, I have signed a ministerial order postponing byelections and referendums in these communities so they can focus on protecting their residents.”
Decisions to reschedule the referendum and byelections will be made by local governments in conjunction with public health officials and Elections BC.
When that happens, Daley said the Kamloops Centre for the Arts Society will be set to go.
“We’re ready to lead the charge again, as we’ve done now. We’ll just redouble our efforts to ensure that this great benefit for our community will occur,” he said.
“At the end of the day, disappointment has passed because there is a lot more going on than a referendum on a performing-arts centre.”