Emotions were charged as smart meter protesters met face-to-face with Keremeos Mayor Manfred Bauer after he voted against a moratorium on the controversial technology.
A group of about six area residents gathered outside the village office and confronted the mayor after a special meeting held Monday afternoon to announce the new CAO.
“Why don’t you protect your people?” protesters yelled as Mayor Bauer came out the back door of the village office trying to enter his vehicle.
Councillors Sherry Philpott-Adhikary, Jeremy Evans and Jason Wiebe left the village office without engaging with protesters.
Bauer did speak briefly about his reasons for voting against a smart meter moratorium brought forward by RDOS Area D director Tom Siddon last week.
“There is no legal leg for that,” Bauer said to the small but loud crowd.
Throughout the interaction one of the protesters, Olalla resident Flo Winfrey, repeatedly shouted names at the mayor while demanding answers as to why he voted against the motion.
“You stupid bastard,” she yelled repeatedly as Bauer tried to explain his stance that the RDOS didn’t have legally binding jurisdiction over the matter.
The motion, passed last Thursday by a 12-5 vote, calls on FortisBC to stop installing smart meters and to remove at its own cost those meters, which wirelessly relay usage data back to the company that are already installed on houses in Area D.
Other directors voting against the moratorium included Area F Director, Michael Brydon, Penticton Mayor Andrew Jakubeit, Penticton Coun. Helena Konanz and Osoyoos Coun. CJ Rhodes
Throughout the protest Monday and the previous one held Friday, protesters brought up Health Canada’s Safety Code 6 limits and the need to update them.
Bauer referenced material listed on FortisBC’s website stating that smart meters were well below Health Canada standards and that cell phones emit higher radio frequency emissions.
“I am not a scientist. I have to trust what Health Canada says,” he said. “I think what we need to do is create an awareness about technology… to pick out just one item and try to make a moratorium is ridiculous.”
Bauer said he could have voted for the motion, but as he knew it was outside the jurisdiction of the RDOS he thought it hypocritical .
Intervenor status could have been applied for before FortisBC started putting in meters in the area but now that the project is going forward, Bauer said there isn’t anything anyone can do.
“The train is long gone. There was a time and it’s passed. For people who don’t want them they can opt-out,” he said.
Grace Pickell, a spokesperson for FortisBC stated in an email to the Review that the company had fulfilled it’s obligations and that it would continue with installing the smart meters.
“While the RDOS is not the first B.C. municipality to request a moratorium on wireless electricity meters, FortisBC is continuing with advanced meter installations since the project has met all of the regulatory and legal requirements,” the email read.
Tom Siddon, Area D director who put forward the moratorium acknowledged he knew before doing so the motion would not be enough to stop FortisBC from installing the meters.
“I’m not so naive to think they are going to stop installing them tomorrow and they have told us that they are approved,” he said. Siddon said his reason to bring forward the motion was two-fold.
He’s read and heard about many safety concerns relating to fires caused by smart meters and he is concerned about health effects from the frequency emissions.
“You know the risks if you want to go sun tanning then you can make that choice. If you want to smoke cigarettes and you get lung cancer you knew that risk. This isn’t something we can choose. Once they are up even if you opt out it will be everywhere,” he said.
FortisBC has installed more than 7,000 smart meters in the South Okanagan.
Most meters in the Twin Lakes area have been installed except for ones that have been locked by owners. Smart meters are expected to be installed in Cawston then Keremeos and Hedley in the coming weeks.