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Neil Godbout: How the City of Prince George might waste a big pile of time and money in 2023

Why put so much unnecessary effort into a document that amounts to nothing more than thoughtful suggestions and wishful thinking?
Prince George City Hall 5
City Hall in Prince George.

Residents and community groups will have a chance to provide their feedback to the city on what is arguably the most important planning document in municipal government.

The previous sentence about the upcoming review of the Official Community Plan wasn’t written last year, it was written in 2011 about the 214-page OCP draft setting out the city’s development plans and goals over the following 15 years.

"Once an Official Community Plan is passed into a bylaw, all [other] bylaws and works that are related to it must comply to it," the city’s planning and development manager said at the time.


City councils across B.C. routinely alter the OCP once it’s passed. In Prince George, mayor and council tinkered with the OCP in 2014 to allow the Treasure Cove hotel and casino development to go ahead. More recently, the current OCP was changed so the aboriginal housing project at 17th Avenue would comply.

The uselessness of the OCP likely won’t stop city politicians and employees in 2023 from wasting time and money on the look-busy-but-get-nothing-done work of putting together a new OCP and asking for the public’s input, as if it actually matters. It’s not if but when and how many times this current city council and the ones to follow in 2026 and 2030 will vote to change it.

If the Ginter’s Meadow folks or anyone else still think the OCP is binding in any way, just ask the Haldi Road neighbourhood about the proposed recovery centre a decade ago. When the residents mounted a legal challenge, a judge agreed with them that city council’s approval violated the existing OCP.

No problem.

The city council of the day changed the OCP and approved the project again. The recovery centre never happened only because the proponents backed away in light of the neighbourhood opposition, not because of lack of support from local politicians.

There’s plenty of real work for city council and staff to do in 2023, from addressing a challenging budget and RCMP staffing levels to tackling social issues and deciding what to do with the $28 million from the Fortis gas deal.

Since the provincial government requires each B.C. municipality to submit a new OCP every 10 years or so, the City of Prince George should just send in the last one with the updated changes from the past decade.

Why put so much unnecessary effort into a document that amounts to nothing more than thoughtful suggestions and wishful thinking?

Neil Godbout is editor-in-chief at the Prince George Citizen.

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