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The NewsLeader has chosen Hyack as the 2013 NewsMaker of the Year in New Westminster.

In choosing, it was a close race with the Oct. 10 fire that claimed the E.L. Lewis Building, until recently home to the iconic Copp’s Shoes and a number of small businesses.

It was a spectacular fire and one that prompted a huge outpouring of sadness at the loss of such a significant piece of heritage on a corner that is the heart of New West’s Downtown. Also important was the impact on so many businesses that not only lost their home, but in cases like The Fat Paint Company, the loss of invoices and future orders of product—vital to getting back on their feet.

The fire garnered huge media attention across the region, and a fantastic response from the New West community, as organizations and individuals pitched in to support affected businesses.

Choosing Hyack as the NewsMaker this year is in no way meant to downplay the significance of the fire and its aftermath. And as shown by Mario Bartel’s Looking Back/Looking Ahead story on the fire in today’s paper, the future of that Columbia Street site has much riding on it. Whatever is built on that property must contribute to the future success of New West.

The Hyack story, as we say in the news business, had “legs.”

Once the executive members of the board made the contentious decision to fire executive director Douglas Smith on July 31, it seemed not a week would go by that there weren’t new developments in the Hyack Saga.

The rest of the board objected to his firing, calling it out of order, and scheduled a special meeting in October to remove the executive. The executive fired back, adding their own resolutions to the same agenda for removal of those so-called “rogue” board members.

Then at the last minute, the “rogue” members resigned. And at the last minute the meeting was cancelled, with what some said was inadequate notice. A group of Hyack members showed up at The Columbia theatre and convened the meeting anyway, and approved removal of the Hyack president and other executives behind Smith’s firing and…well, the legitimacy of that was disputed and…

Oh, did I mention that earlier, Smith had been reinstated for a month and then fired again?

And that after all these disputed hirings and firings, the City of New Westminster suspended funding and called for an audit, and asked the registrar of the B.C. Society Act to look into the legitimacy of Hyack?

Oh, and that Douglas Smith got paid out for wrongful dismissal?

Or that well, he hasn’t actually been paid out yet because Hyack’s bank accounts have been frozen?

And um, Hyack president Gavin Palmer says it’s all Smith’s fault about the frozen account thing? And the city’s fault too?

And that Hyack issued a press release a few weeks ago saying they’ve re-branded themselves Festivals New West, to show they’d listened to residents and to, in their words, “enter the New Year with a truly fresh and invigorated association?”

And that despite the press release about re-branding Hyack, that wasn’t exactly what was happening, because in a separate email to the Hyack membership about the name change, Palmer stated, “We are not changing the name of The Hyack Festival Association and would not do so without the expressed permission of the membership.”


Some may say the future of Hyack doesn’t have too much import behind the borders of this 15-square-kilometre city. But in 2013 the organization’s travails had all the elements of a soap opera.

And love it or lump it, that made news. Loads of it.


Chris Bryan is editor

of the NewsLeader.

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