A Cranbrook city councillor is speaking out against the process council underwent in approving the urban deer cull this February, saying that council’s secrecy “stirred up the proverbial hornets’ nest”.
Councillor Gerry Warner, a former Townsman reporter, apologized to the public for participating in closed council meetings where decisions about the recently completed second cull were made.
“Whatever we decide, it must be decided in public,” said Coun. Warner. “So far we have hidden from the public eye and, like shadowy apparatchiks of some Third World regime, we’ve cowered behind closed doors and taken a bad situation and torqued it up into something infinitely worse.
“I have been partly responsible for this and for that I here and now unequivocally apologize to each and every citizen of Cranbrook for my role in this toxic mess.”
Warner said that council agreed to hold its discussions in a private meeting because of alleged vandalism and public safety incidents that occurred last year in Invermere while the district was carrying out its cull.
“There is some merit in this argument, but I have since come to the conclusion that whether the argument is meritorious or not, vandalism and public safety is an RCMP issue, not a council issue, and it shouldn’t have swayed our judgement in taking the public’s business behind closed doors. Once we retreated into our locked chamber, we lost control of the issue and the rest is history,” said Coun. Warner.
Council did not live up to its responsibility, he went on.
“We have not been transparent. And because of that we have lost most of our credibility on this issue with our own citizens, regardless of where they stand on the cull. And once again, we’ve raised our city’s profile outside of Cranbrook in a most negative way,” said Warner.
He expressed regret that the city did not wait until Invermere’s civil suit over its urban deer cull was concluded.
“Instead, we foolishly rushed in and stirred up the proverbial hornets’ nest and made ourselves – and our city – the target of anti-cull rage from coast to coast,” said Warner.
From now on, he will not participate in closed discussions about urban deer control, Coun. Warner concluded.
“I’ve thought about this long and hard and if there is any attempt to keep the decision to cull or not to cull, if there is any attempt to make that in camera again, I will resist in every possible way I can.”
In response to Councillor Warner’s comments, Mayor Wayne Stetski had this to say:
“As I’ve said before this has been a very emotional issue for the community and for council. Now that the City of Cranbrook’s deer reduction project has been concluded council will review this year’s initiative, discuss with the province the additional options we would like to have to manage urban deer, and formulate a strategy on how to best keep the public informed in the future.
“Council does have a role in ensuring public safety and in preventing vandalism, and we will continue to include these concerns in our decisions. We also need to secure additional sources of funding if we are going to see a different future for deer management in Cranbrook,” said Mayor Stetski.