PAC referendum not likely to take place soon after province clears way for pandemic-era elections

A referendum on Kamloops Centre for the Arts could move ahead in an era of COVID-19, after the province released guidelines on Wednesday for safely holding a series of cancelled votes across British Columbia.

But the city has said it is not looking to resurrect the referendum at this time and it remains unclear when a new date could be set.

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“We’re not going to talk about it until we believe it’s the right time to talk about it and we don’t know when that time will be,” said Coun. Dale Bass, who is deputy mayor in Mayor Ken Christian’s absence.

On Wednesday, the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing said in a press release it worked with Provincial Health Officer Bonnie Henry, Elections BC, WorkSafe BC and local government groups to develop guidelines for local governments to hold safe voting.

It includes things like curbside voting, guidelines for physical distancing in person and enhanced advanced and mail-in opportunities.

“The ministry is working directly with local governments to ensure each community will have the election guidance, advice and options it needs to makes its own decisions about how to safely proceed with election processes,” the statement reads.

A referendum on city borrowing for Kamloops Centre for the Arts — a proposed three-theatre venue downtown — was slated for April, but was cancelled at the onset of the novel coronavirus outbreak.

Three byelections in British Columbia — Victoria, Rossland and Lytton — were also cancelled.

Just because municipalities can now proceed safely with elections, however, it doesn’t mean they will. Bass said the city is currently focused on the pandemic.

“First, we’ve got to get past COVID,” she said.

“Then, we’ve got to figure out what the world looks like post-COVID. Not only in terms of construction but in terms of how everybody feels about the performing arts centre. Everything is different now.”

Bass said that with continued restrictions on mass gatherings, a venue designed for events and gathering does not make sense right now.

She said she does not know when an appropriate time to return to the issue will be, as nobody knows at this time when the pandemic will end.

“We can’t move forward until it’s the right time and we don’t know when that time will come,” she said, adding it might not be in this term or even the next.

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