This report chronicles a few highlights of the UBCM convention held in Vancouver, at the Vancouver Trade and Convention Center from September 16-20.
Panel Questions and Discussion around “What Does Rural B.C. Need to Succeed?”
• A moderated panel discussion intended to increase public awareness and support of the three Beetle Action Coalitions’ Rural BC Project. The RBCP has proposed new policy and direction for the provincial government to consider in the position paper, “The Pathway to Prosperity in British Columbia Runs Through its Rural Places: a Long-term Strategy for Rural Development.”
• The development and implementation of a rural strategy will assist all levels of government with navigating the complex investments in social and economic development required for rural B.C. communities to succeed.
• Electoral Area Forum: Many rural areas throughout British Columbia are faced with increasing pressures to their emergency services management, whether they are a remote area depending on volunteer first responders, or larger areas with paramedic staff on call.
• Often the people who are trained and qualified to do the emergency work in our remote areas cannot make enough money to sustain themselves from that work alone, either because they make no money unless a call comes through or they are paid $2 an hour to remain on call. This situation causes many trained emergency services responders to move to larger centers where they can obtain full-time work, leaving the remote communities without full time coverage.
Small Talk: Small Communities Forum:
I dodged out of the Electoral Area Forum to watch the presentation on the Similkameen Valley Tourism success story delivered by Simone Carlysle-Smith of TOTA. The Similkameen Valley got promoted to over 500 delegates as the TOTA representative showed off, among other things, the new website: www.similkameenvalley.com
Ministerial Meetings, representing both the Regional District Okanagan-Similkameen (RDOS) and the Southern Interior Local Government Association (SILGA)
• The purpose of these 15-minute meetings is to take the opportunity to explain an issue or concern in the area discussed to get it “on the radar” of ministerial offices. Due to the fact that each minister will sit through as many as 30 – 40 appointments a day, it is important to keep the presentations brief and to the point. These sessions essentially provide an opportunity to connect on issues which need follow up later.
Minister Steve Thomson- Forests, Lands, and Natural Resource Operations
• (RDOS issues): Area “H”: Chain Lake is dying and studies have been done on remediation: residents are prepared to do the work to save it. Scientific support from the ministry was requested.
• Area “D”: Logging up at Apex: an MOU has been signed between Sn’pink’tn and Apex Property Owners Association but follow up with FLNRO is needed, in order to ensure consideration is given to areas designated for timber harvest which surround residential developments.
Minister Terry Lake- Health
• (RDOS issues): Judy Sentes, Vice-Chair of Okanagan-Similkameen Regional Hospital District made a compelling presentation on the need for immediate action following completion of the business case for Penticton Regional Hospital Expansion Project. This hospital, built in the 1950’s to service a population of around 30,000 now serves more than 80,000 people. It is time for increased capacity with new facilities.
Ministers Bill Bennett- Mining and Steve Thomson- Forests, Lands, and Natural Resource Operations
• (SILGA issues): concern brought forward from the local government membership of the Southern Interior region at the issuance of permits for gravel pits which are opposed by residents or run counter to the Official Community Plans organized and supported by the nearby local governments.
• Minister Bennett explained that the costs associated with gravel pits being located too far from their areas of use meant that the B.C. government could not allow local governments to veto gravel pit locations.
• SILGA representatives spoke of examples where a neighbourhood opposed to the gravel pit’s development came on side once a berm was built to prevent the spread of dust and the hours of operation were restricted to day use and weekends were excluded from use.
• Minister Bennett responded favourably that setting some parameters around the construction and operation of gravel pits could go a long way to diminishing the conflicts typical of gravel extraction.
Minister Terry Lake- Health
• (SILGA issues): Executive of SILGA proposed that some of the recent provincial successes in Health Services be communicated through SILGA to its membership.
• SILGA representatives suggested a seminar or conference to educate small and remote communities about the resources available to assist them in navigating physician recruitment and working with IHA.
Premier Christy Clark
• (SILGA): Executive of SILGA met to familiarize the premier of our intention to promote the Southern Interior Local Government Association as an advocate for our membership, a communications portal both to and from local government, and a means to educate those serving in local governments on topics important to their work on councils and boards.
Fortis and the two-tiered conservation rate:
• I have been asked by Fortis to write a letter detailing the consequences of the two-tiered conservation rate for inclusion in a submission which Fortis is making to the BC Utilities Commission asking for the conservation rate to undergo reconsideration. I have heard many terrible stories of bills spiralling into the $1,000’s from residents in my area and will be including a number of those unacceptable examples in my letter.