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QUESNEL It could have been divisive, but instead last nights town hall meeting sponsored by CUPE and community organization CAAPSL demonstrated considerable promise for a community solution to the city hall fiasco. An authoritative legal opinion was presented that contradicted city claims that they were legally bound to purchase the $8 million new city hall in which the city is currently leasing.

Prominent BC lawyer, Leo McGrady presented his findings from the most exhaustive review to date of documents related to Quesnels responsibility to purchase the 8 million dollar city hall building 1040 documents in total. McGrady explained to the standing room only crowd, that the citys failure to bring the agreement to purchase to Quesnel taxpayers rendered purchase documents null and void.

There ought to be statutory consultation with the taxpayer before the process [to purchase] can proceed, said Leo McGrady in reference to relevant municipal legislation. Since this consultation in the form of a counter petition opportunity did not take place, the city can walk away.

For CUPE BC President Barry ONeill, the issue is even simpler. It is up to the citizens to decide what they ultimately would like to do, considering we sign the cheques.

ONeill explained his unions involvement in these municipal matters as part of CUPE members commitment to building strong communities. We dont just do the job and get flown to a different planet. We live in the community and are recipients of the services we provide. I urge everyone to get involved in issues that impact their community.

Quesnels municipal workers have blamed Councils insistence on purchasing the expensive city hall as the motivation behind over a million dollars in planned cuts to city services. CAAPSL has fought the purchase of this building since its inception and their panel representative, Ron Campbell argued, Quesnel residents shouldnt have to pay for a debt they have not incurred.

Town hall participants had the opportunity to ask Mr. McGrady and the panellists a wide variety of legal, political and economic questions. Mayor Nate Bello and Councillors Doyle and Paull were also present to answer questions from the floor.

All panellists were in agreement that it was the democratic right of Quesnel residents to have the walk-away option on the referendum ballot.

Mayor Nate Bello admitted that the purchase of the new town hall has been a mess and agreed that the public, in the end, would need to decide if the new city hall would be a civic asset. While he stopped short of committing to a referendum question that includes a walk-away option, he did open the door to that possibility.

ONeill expressed confidence that elected officials would do the right thing and offered his assistance and the assistance of CUPE 1050 & 3176 in coming up with a community solution.

I do know about negotiating contracts, said ONeill. This legal opinion puts the community in a good position to negotiate an agreement with the Municipal Finance Authority. Lets get a bunch of community representatives together and send them to Vancouver to say, We cant afford to buy or lease this building. Lets talk.

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CUPE BC represents 25,000 municipal workers in the province.

CAAPSL is a community organization formed to stop the purchase of the new city hall.

Leo McGrady has been a litigation lawyer in Vancouver since 1969 and has been counsel on several major charter/labour law cases at the Supreme Court of Canada. A copy of his legal opinion can be found at www.cupe.bc.ca

For more information, please visit www.cupe1050.com or www.quesnelnews.com

Barry ONeill, CUPE BC President, c: (604) 916-8444;
Pat Morton, CAAPSL, c: (250) 992-9895;
Diane Kalen, CUPE Communications, c: (778) 229-0258.