This year, the Union of B.C. Municipalities met in Vancouver from Sept. 25th to 30th. From Nakusp, councillors Leitch, Mueller, our CAO and I attended. We had several meetings scheduled with various ministries, making our schedule very busy, probably one of the busiest UBCM’s I have attended.
Councillor Leitch and I met with Dr. Halpenny and Norm Embree of the Interior Health Authority (IHA) to voice concerns about the amount of time that Dr. Lea was spending on physician recruitment and finding locums. We requested that the IHA give him some staffing support so that he could spend his valuable time looking after patients. We also requested education funding for our nursing staff, helping us to find locums to keep the ER open and to move us back into the acute care sector from community health.
At the Forest Economy workshop, John MacDonald of MacDonald Dettwilder and Associates spoke of the link between lifestyle and affordable energy. The challenge is developing 100% renewable and firm energy sources, and controlling consumption during heavy load times.
On Tuesday, Councillor Leitch and I attended the small communities forum for communities of 5,000. I was asked to give a presentation on our new Emergency Services Building – how we built it and how we got the ambulance, fire department and search and rescue under the same roof. It was an interesting experience with a lot of feedback.
Councillor Leitch, our CAO and I met with Crown lands to discuss the industrial parks status and Councillor Mueller joined us for a meeting with the Honourable Ida Chong, Minister of Community, Sport and Cultural Development to discuss small community funding and BC assessment classification of vacant lands use.
Councillor Leitch and I attended the Municipal Insurance Association AGM. This is the association that provides our municipality with insurance coverage.
On Wednesday, Glen Brown, the Executive Director, met with us to discuss various grants that we have applied for and to discuss where they stand. We have applied for funding to replace the Hot Springs bridge and will hear if we will receive it in the next couple of months.
We all met with BC Ambulance to discuss observations and experiences in the project of providing housing to BCAS employees.
On Thursday, we met with BC Hydro to discuss the wharf replacement and receive assurances that this project will move forward. It has been delayed, due to high water levels over the past two years.
We then had a meeting with the Honourable Blair Lekstrom, Minister of Transportation and Highways to discuss a number of concerns that we have with the proposed new ferry. We gathered information on the operations side and presented it to the minister to review. We requested the Galena remain in service as a back-up ferry as this is not in the current plan. We also asked the minister to look at long range planning for the area and to look at the feasibility of a fixed link. We discussed the importance of access and a fixed link to our economic growth.
In between all the meetings we attended the resolution and policy sessions. Policies and resolutions are items that the delegates vote on to forward to the provincial and federal governments for action. This is a way of making the government aware of the concerns of our communities and where we would like to see policies or regulations changed. The hot topics on the floor were the proposal for a Municipal Auditor General (MAG); an office to be funded by the province, which would set up an audit system to determine value for money audits for communities.
Local governments are not opposed to initiatives that enhance accountability and transparency of financial decisions. They want more information on the proposal and assurances that it will not duplicate current systems in place.
BC Hydro’s smart meter program was also a hot topic with a resolution passed by 55% of the delegates requesting a moratorium on smart meters until more health information is obtained (in spite of comments from Minister Rich Coleman stating the meters would go ahead regardless of the vote).
Minister Pat Bell challenged every community to identify what they could do better than anyone else and to identify the advantages that make our community unique. Once we have identified these items, he will work with us to maximize our economic potential.
Premier Christy Clark announced the implementation of $30 million in funding for capital projects to improve healthy living and sustainable communities. She spoke of the communities that were funded by Towns for Tomorrow and cited Nakusp as a community that held onto their arena complex due to the funding.