General · 13th October 2011
Happy Thanksgiving to everyone (slightly belated by the time you read this!). It is such a beautiful day out there as I write this report with the bright, warm sunshine and the turning of the leaves from bright green to the multi-hued yellows, oranges and browns. It certainly is a day to reflect on all that we have to be thankful for in this beautiful place that we call home. I have a lot of ground to cover in my report so I guess the best thing to do is just get on with it.
Union of BC Municipalities convention
As I have mentioned in other reports, I was in attendance at the UBCM meeting in Vancouver from Sept. 26th through Sept. 30th. It was one of the best conventions I have attended in a number of years due to the amount of work I was able to get done for our area. It was interesting, exciting, productive and exhausting! The provincial government had a huge presence which made it much easier to get meetings with Ministers and even the Premier on topics of concern to us.
Of course, one of the main meetings was the meeting of the coalition of 14 regional district chairs and vice chairs and the Islands Trust with the Premier and the Minister of Transport on our favourite topic: BC Ferries! The group had a lengthy pre-meeting to determine strategy, since our time with the Premier / Minister would be limited, and then we had a post meeting of the group to write the press release that went out the next day from our group to all BC media. The meeting was very successful and we had plenty of time to make the points that we wanted: that ferry fares are too high and are killing our communities and that they must be reduced; that we are losing families and jobs on the islands due to the fares, thus destroying our economy and communities; and lastly that the Coastal Ferry Act has failed and that ferries need to be treated just like the rest of the BC highway system and brought back into the Ministry. Our information was received and considered and we were assured that when the Commissioner makes his report that the government will be better positioned to make a decision on our points. We also were assured that we will be brought into the "consideration" stage of the report prior to making any decisions. This was a major bonus, since we usually get the decision and then have to fight it. So maybe this time they will do it right.
I made one point to the Premier and the Minister that they found quite enlightening and that was the 14 of us in the delegation represent 70% of the population of BC. They were shocked to say the least. So now we will await the report of the Commissioner and the meeting that will follow.
I understand that the community here on Quadra did a remarkable job of coming out and making all of the necessary points to the Commissioner while I was in Vancouver. I thank all of you for doing what was necessary to help drive home our point. I understand he is getting the same reception at all of the communities that he visits (well over 35 by now). It will be interesting to see if he accurately reflects those comments from communities. If he does, it will make it much easier for the government to do the right thing, as we suggested in our meeting. Stay tuned.
I was also able to attend a great forum on Jobs, Tourism and Innovation with four Minsters present: Kevin Falcon, Margaret MacDiarmid, Pat Bell and Blair Lekstrom. What an opportunity this turned out to be! We were able to give Blair Lekstrom our pitch on the ferry situation in front of Kevin Falcon, who was the Minister responsible for putting in the Coastal Ferry Act. So he got to hear it first hand. And Margaret Macdiarmid is the new minister of labour (and more) and is in charge of "Connectivity": high speed internet and cell coverage. I was able to give her a good pitch for our area and how we have been left out for far too long from the government strategy to "connect all communities". We had a good chat afterwards with a commitment on her part to look into what has gone wrong in our area. Pat Bell was great to talk to and I got a meeting with him the next day (with lots of skulking around the government offices and talking to a lot of Ministerial assistants to get fit in) to invite him to Quadra Island to meet with our Chamber of Commerce to see what is being done on Quadra and see what his ministry can do for us. He was more than willing to oblige since we have known each other for many years, in many Ministries.
I also had the fortune at that same forum to be introduced to the Director of Government Relations for Telus! The mayor of West Vancouver introduced me since she knew we were having problems getting service. I met with her and explained our situation and she vowed to look into it on the next Monday (after the convention). I was then flagged down by her the next day telling me that she was so upset by what I had told her the day before that she started the investigation already and that what she had found so far was not right. She had a number of people doing some research and promised to put me together with the people at Telus that really matter and can make this happen. I have followed up with her since I returned home and she actually is working on it and will be back to me next week after the holiday. So, I have spent a couple of years looking for the right people and all it took was being in the right room at the right time; both the Minister responsible for connectivity and the Telus representative for government relations. How good can it get!
I am going to leave out some of the other highlights of the convention since this is getting pretty wordy. However, please read the following.
UBCM resolutions sessions
Back to ferries for a minute. In addition to the meeting with the Premier and the Minister and all the other opportunities I got to make our case, we, as a UBCM body of all 180+ local governments passed unanimously, resolution A3, which calls on the government to keep jobs in coastal communities, to reduce fares and to maintain current service levels, and to recognize our coastal ferries services as essential extensions of our provincial public highway system. I made amendments to the motion to include the part about reductions in fares (not capping them at current levels) and maintaining current service levels. Unanimity in a room of 1500 delegates is not usually the case, but it was on this one.
Ed: An article from the Vancouver Sun is attached - see the link at the bottom of the page
We also fought and won the passing of resolution B174, BC Hydro Smart Meters, which insists on a moratorium on the mandatory installation of wireless smart meters until a whole lot of independent scientific investigation is completed. This was a tough battle at the mic's as there are many people throughout the province that think it is a good idea. But we prevailed and that is now UBCM policy for at least the next year. It can only be changed at convention through another resolution.
Luncheon with Minister Pat Bell in Campbell River on Sept. 7th
I received an email invite to this two hour meeting with the Minister to discuss his Jobs, Tourism and Innovation strategy. Even though I had just had eye surgery two days prior, I decided I could not miss this opportunity for our community. I invited Susan Wilson, a tourism operator and past president of the Chamber of Commerce to accompany (and drive) me to hear first hand what was said. It was a good presentation and gave me the opportunity to confirm the Minister's upcoming visit to Quadra in the very near future. I have since emailed him and had a personal reply letting me know he is looking forward to it. Once again, I was able to get up and speak about "getting goods to market" and how ferries are effecting this key pillar of his new strategy. He was cognizant of the issue and I figured it would not hurt to make sure that a senior Minister heard it one more time. My plea to him was to support Minister Lekstrom in getting our ferries back into highways system (since they sit at the Cabinet table together). It was great to have Susan along since she is a working member of the industry and knows the details.
Stuart Island Community meeting
I met with a very large contingent of the Stuart Island community, on Stuart Island on Monday, Sept. 5th to discuss where they are going with their Association and the issues around the School District property that the District is trying to get rid of. I chaired the meeting and we went through all of the scenarios, straightened out some of the problems, struck a by-law committee to completely revise the by-laws of the association, and agreed on a strategy to purchase the property from the School District. It was a great meeting with everyone feeling quite satisfied with the outcome, and left a lot of work to be done by me and others afterwards.
The next morning I went to town on the 8 am ferry and met with SRD staff to re-cap the meeting and to discuss strategy in dealing with the School District and the Province. We had a conference call with the CFO of the School District and the provincial land manager in charge of this area and talked about options and developed a game plan to get this project underway. It was a real exercise in patience when I had to sit through the amount of bureaucratic requirements from the province, but I survived and waited until everyone was off the phone to pull out my hair! Unbelievable! They want to divest the land that the community buildings are on and we want to take it off their hands, along with the community. Seems simple, right? Think again. More to follow as it unfolds.
Quathiaski Cove Local Area Plan
Well folks, we are finally at the stage we have all been waiting for. The Local Area Plan is before the Electoral Area's Committee this week for 1st and 2nd reading, which will allow us to formally introduce it to the community in its latest iteration. It is basically the same document, with some changes that the province insisted upon regarding some housekeeping name changes, etc. the full staff report will be on the web site. We will still receive input prior to going to public hearing, but this is the next stage. We are getting there!
I think I have taken up enough space and I truly hope that most of you will have read what I have written. I don't write these reports for me. They are to keep you informed about your area. Feel free to call me between the hours of 8:30 am and 7:00 pm, Monday through Friday (please, not on weekends, folks!) at 285-3355, or you can fax me at 285-3533 or you can email me anytime at jimabramxplornet.ca , or by mail at Box 278 in the Cove, V0P 1N0... Lots of choices. I am always available!
Please note my new email address. The old "oberon" address is no longer active.
Director, Discovery Islands - Mainland Inlets (Area C), SRD