Letter to the editor

By Submitted

September 1, 2016 12:00 AM

Casino approval process

Dear editor:
In June 2016, city Coun. Larry Sauer tabled a motion related to a zoning amendment for a casino on the east side of Lloydminster.
This councillor expressed his belief the developers ought to have engaged the public at large prior to being granted discretionary use of the land for a casino (public consultation was required by the governing bodies in the Saskatchewan government.)
This motion was voted down and debate on the matter was finished much to the apparent frustration of certain councillors.
Immediately following, a vote occurred and discretionary use for a casino was approved along with the change in the zoning of the property.
Council defended the decision that it should be treated the same for any type of legitimate business. 
Since this time, approval has been granted by the Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations and Saskatchewan Liquor and Gaming.
Forgive me if I am mistaken, but when was there engagement of the public at large?
I may have missed it altogether or it may have been less robust than expected.
Following is how I believe the process should go:
1. Public is notified of the proposal (size of facility, convention centre, economic benefits to community, and benefits to not-for-profits).
2. Concerned parties voice the perceived or real risks associated with the project.
3. Developer ensures all stakeholders are engaged who will aid in mitigating the risks (public health, RCMP, addictions treatment, religious organizations)
4. Developer reassures concerned residents that best practices will be followed through the aid in these partnerships with key stakeholders.
5. Council votes based on results of engagement and understanding that adequate consultation was performed.
Based on the information on the project in council chambers, and from research on the project’s website, I like the economic benefits a casino could bring to the community.
This is simply my opinion on the subject and the reality is that there are a variety of opinions on the matter.
Individual citizens and groups have the right to be informed on the project and voice their concerns.
The onus is on the developers to ensure that the risks are covered by adequate safeguards.
We don’t need to agree on the decision, or whether the benefits outweigh the cost,  but we can agree that public engagement cannot be superseded by the opinion of a few.
At the end of the day, elected officials need to be held accountable for their decisions and engaging residents on matters that effect the community is part of the mandate.
Don’t expect to have the same oversight of the process from a bureaucrat in a federal or provincial capital because voters will have a more difficult time holding them accountable to their decision.
Look for transparency, accountability, and engagement from your elected officials at the local level.
Jonathan Torresan

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