Kitimat mayor Phil Germuth said while he is disappointed his motion to support the installation of scrubbers was defeated, he respects the wishes of council and won’t participate in debates around the subject anymore.
“I knew this was a contentious issue so I expected this would not be a ‘slam dunk’,” said Germuth. “I respect council for their position, which is the position I will take moving forward.”
He said following the defeat he has no intention of pursuing the motion any further.
Germuth’s motion was introduced at the Jan. 21 council meeting and after considerable debate among members of council, was defeated 4-3, with councillors Mario Feldhoff, Edwin Empinado, Rob Goffinet and Mary Murphy voting against while Germuth and councillors Larry Walker and Claire Rattée were in favour.
“The mayor is the voice of council. It would be disrespectful of me to carry on with it,” added Germuth.
He stressed that the motion was wrongly interpreted as an attempt by him to get council to put pressure on Rio Tinto to install scrubbers.
“Different people perceive things in a different way. I believe the biggest concern was the perception that the motion may be seen as trying to overturn the current SO2 permit, even though that was not the intent,” said Germuth.
As a result of the motion’s defeat, Germuth withdrew his name from a list of speakers scheduled to attend the Unifor townhall that had been scheduled for Saturday, Feb. 3. It was cancelled at the last minute out of respect for the funeral of former Kitimat mayor Ray Brady.
“I told the organizers that I couldn’t go there and speak because council doesn’t have a position on the scrubbers,” said Germuth.
Responding to criticism that he didn’t consult the Haisla Nation Council before tabling the motion, Germuth said bringing the HNC into discussions around the scrubbers would have been premature.
“The motion didn’t say what type of scrubbers, how many and to which SO2 sources they were to be applied.
“If the motion passed, the next step was to communicate the district’s position to Rio Tinto and the provincial government for future discussion.
“In my opinion that would have been the appropriate time to invite the Haisla to be in the discussions.”
He said the motion wasn’t meant to slight Rio Tinto and that frustration surrounding the scrubbers be directed at the provincial government.
“I don’t have a problem with the holder of the permit. The problem was with who issued the permit in the first place,” said Germuth.
He said his intent was to support any initiative to ensure Kitimat residents have the cleanest air possible and to protect human health in the best way possible.