The chief administrative officer for Tsawwassen First Nation was fired by the government’s executive council Friday afternoon (March 8), and the fallout has members fearful that more job losses are on the way.
A reliable source in TFN, who wished not to be named for fear of retribution, confirmed CAO Doug Raines was let go from his position. Raines had held the job after leaving Campbell River as its CAO in November 2008.
TFN members in the government learned about the change yesterday via email.
“There’s basically a temporary government because the election is a month away and they’ve appointed a member of council as the interim chief administrative officer,” the source said.
That interim CAO is TFN member Tony Jacobs, who was elected council member in September.
Jacobs, a former two-term chief, said in an interview Saturday that one of the main reasons for the departure was an inability to resolve the sewer issue with Delta and Metro Vancouver.
“We need to bring someone in with more experience in negotiation,” he said. “This chief and council and legislators are in the process of looking at our team, strengthening our team so we can move forward with the process quicker than we’ve been doing.”
TFN has a number of significant and ambitious development projects underway, but as of yet do not have the sewer infrastructure in place.
The Corporation of Delta has stated it does not have the sewerage capacity to handle TFN’s build out plans, and negotiations between TFN and Metro Vancouver haven’t produced a solution.
The sudden firing is unexpected said the source, adding it has created rampant fear in the community that more people will be let go before the next election on April 10.
There is concern in the community that it will be seen by outsiders as destabilizing the government just as TFN’s ambitious investment projects are getting underway.
“In the past I’ve kept my mouth shut about a lot of things because I’m worried about my community’s reputation but it’s beyond the point of no return, it’s getting pretty serious,” said the source.
An election was held Sept. 5, 2012, but the results were contested and overturned by the judicial council in December following complaints that election date notices were incorrectly posted.
The elected government has continued in an interim role until the new election can be held.
Chief Bryce Williams, elected to executive council in 2009, unseated long-time chief Kim Baird in a narrow 78-69 vote in September. The ensuing rift in the community between supporters of Baird and Williams may now be bubbling to the surface.
The source called the change “alarming and concerning” and likely politically motivated. There have been accusations made about vote-buying in the tiny community. A total of 260 TFN members from the population of 439 were eligible to vote in the last election.
But Jacobs said despite the short term of the current government, it didn’t make sense to refuse to make changes until after the election.
“We need to come in here and govern and make decisions and continue progress because the projects that we’re involved in—like the big mall, the industrial site, the residential—they’re not going wait the seven months for the next election,” he said.
Jacobs also rejected claims that the community is fearful of the change.
“It puts a pretty negative spin on what we’re trying to do,” he said. “It’s our best interests and our wishes and goals to strengthen the positions within the organization and most importantly be there for the community.”
Jacobs said TFN may look at a First Nations candidate for the next job of CAO.