The Union of B.C. Municipalies (UBCM) meetings took place September 22 to 26 in Whistler. The meetings are held once a year with council and regional district delegates from local government. We discuss concerns that we have and make recommendations to the provincial government on issues affecting our communities. This year, councilor Mueller and councilor Duchaine and I attended. The theme was Leading Edge.
I attended the B.C. Mayor’s Caucus on Monday, September 22. It is an important meeting for mayors to attend, learn about all communities and come to a collective decision on issues we want to push with the provincial government. One of our main concerns is the Ad-hoc granting process that is in place; we are encouraging the government to look at providing grants that will be more effective. There needs to be flexibility around the federal gas tax and Build Canada Fund so that it is more goal-orientated to the priorities of communities. Currently, the guidelines are not fitting to the needs of many communities. The implementation of the Municipal Auditor General, the aging infrastructure and ambulance service delivery are also topics their are concerns with and committees are being formed to move forward with recommendations.
Mental Health and Policing are areas that need work. In many areas, the police are asked to deal with issues around mental health and it is not a policing mandate. Housing options are needed so we don’t have people on the street. Coordination with placement and related issues needs work. There needs to be a framework for the province so that everyone is aware of the issues and can work together. Long term care beds are needed as well as more health care and addictions beds.
Members of the B.C. Mayor’s Caucus issued a call to action related to mental health and addiction as their are an urgent issue facing every B.C. community regardless of the size.
The small talk forum had many communities presenting success stories. Of particular interest was on Community Forests and Carbon offsets. We can now apply to have a community forest listed for carbon offsets. The wood waste heating system at Telkwa was also a great learning experience for us and one that council is interested in. We also learned that libraries in small communities have shown an increase in usage of 400 per cent, and a space increase of 40 per cent over the past 10 years a 200 per cent increase in programs, and that virtual contact is a fifth of the total visits. Pretty impressive.
We met with the Minister of Health, the Honourable Terry Lake, to discuss the need for six more residential care beds as well as renovation to our emergency department and consultation rooms for visiting consultants. Although the decisions remain with IHA, it is important that the Minister hear our issues.
Our second ministerial meeting was with the Honorable Todd Stone, Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure. We discussed the importance to our economy, on the reliability and load capacity of the ferry as well as the availability of a back up ferry. We stressed how important the transportation corridor is to our economic driver. We also informed the minister of the importance of building future ferries in Nakusp and the positive impact on our economy. We asked that RFP’s for future work come out sooner rather than later. We were assured that the backup ferry would be in place for at least two years.
We also met with ministry staff to discuss adding to our Community Forest license as the areas we currently have are impacted by the caribou and various other ecological factors. The community forest is a wonderful asset for our communities and we would like to see it grow.
We met with Multi Material BC (MMBC) to discuss the recycling program and what we need to move forward to provide an efficient system for our taxpayers and residents.
The experience of attending UBCM cannot be underestimated. We make many useful connections, learn about other communities and come home with ideas for our own communities.
Many of council’s projects from our three year plan are completed or in the final stages of completion. The reservoir lining will be completed over the next few days. Our groundwater protection plan has been completed. A lot of smaller projects have been addressed as well and if you walk the waterfront, you will see that the sidewalk, on tired Avenue has been replaced —many of you commented on the pooling of water there. There have been upgrades to the cedar chalets and we have received a lot of positive feedback.
We have successfully renewed our Fair Trade status. Thanks to the NSS we became the first community in B.C. to receive Fair Trade Status, and the fourth in Canada. You will soon see five more heritage signs around town bringing the total to 15. Some exciting new projects are on the horizon and we will keep you informed.
Municipal elections are coming up and closing date for filing is Friday, October 10 at 4 p.m..
As always, a great big thank you to all of our volunteers who make our community the special place that it is and also to everyone who takes the time to let us know their concerns and positive comments.