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General · 24th May 2012
Jim Abram
I hope you all have had a great long weekend and are about to enjoy another annual Mayday with all of the traditional festivities. Let's hope the weather is good to us!

I have not written for awhile due to too many things pending. Now I can pass on what I know about some topics that you are interested in.

High-speed internet

This topic probably comes up more often than most in my daily conversations with people and I can finally give you some very good news at this time. I met for one more session in Victoria with the General Manager of the Vancouver Island Region just yesterday. I have been waiting for this meeting for about a month and needed to have it before I could say anything about the progress I have been making with Telus.

I am still unable to give you too many details due to confidentiality within the corporation. What I can tell you is that Telus has us totally in their plans for the future. We can expect three things over the next year. First we will be getting immediate improvements to cellular services in the area. Secondly we are being assessed for far greater improvements in the very near future that will include both cellular and internet services. Thirdly, Telus has a number of communities that have some infrastructure in place but are not being fully serviced. We are in that category and are being seriously considered for the highest level of upgrades. This is all part of the general Telus master plan.

They liked the business case that I presented and that has gone a long way for them to base their decisions on. My relationship with the General Manager has been very productive and I hope to be able to tell you more by the next issue. Joint announcements will be made with Telus when plans are finalized. I hope that all of you will be patient and realize what a frustrating situation this puts me in. However, I must keep my word to the people that I am working with so as to not jeopardize our possible outcomes. So, let's all be patient and keep our fingers crossed.

Quathiaski Local Area Plan - OCP changes

After two and one half years of intensive meetings with a very diverse and representative group of islanders and the Regional District, we have finally gotten through all of the ground work and are ready to bring this plan to a public hearing. The Regional District and I decided that we should have one more public meeting to insure that everyone was able to have open discussion about the plan, prior to going to the public hearing which is so much more formal and does not allow for back and forth discussion. That public meeting was held last Wednesday night, May 16th, and gauging by the low turnout I would say that there are no really burning questions at this time. Of course, it is hard to tell. The turnout could mean a number of things: lack of interest, complete satisfaction, people are "meetinged out", or they are saving their comments for the actual public hearing. One just never knows! The Public Hearing is on Wednesday, May 23rd, at 7:00 pm at the Quadra Community Centre. I hope to see you there.

Gowlland Views - Schellinck proposal

The Regional District has had no contact with the proponent and neither have I. I have no clue why this has not come back to us at this point. Where it was left was that the applicant needed to fulfill a long list of requirements prior to coming to a public hearing. I insisted upon that and the Board agreed. So, I am assuming that he has not finished with the list and when he does he will come back to the SRD.

I will ensure that the public hearing, if it ever happens, will not happen during the summer months when people are away or otherwise distracted. The hearing would be in the fall at the earliest and I will keep you informed.

Quathiaski Cove sewer expansion proposal

I do not have the final word from the planners on the final outcome of the Petition process to add a number of properties to the existing sewer project but I did hear from the planning department that they will have a full report before the board next Thursday. They also said, unofficially, that the "numbers were not looking good". The report will be on the SRD site by Wednesday for all (including me) to see. This expansion is a key element in servicing the Cove area and in helping to keep the annual user fees at a lower rate, not to mention to remedy the systems that were failing in the area. We'll see!

Quathiaski Cove sewer user fees

Speaking of the user fee issue for the sewer, during our budgeting process this year it became obvious from staff that the system is unable to continue operating using the existing formula for fees. I was shocked at the rate of increase needed and told staff that they will need to hold a meeting with all of the users and with all associated staff to explain the increases. Staff are in the process of setting up a meeting with all of the users and all of the associated staff and it will be held in the Cove. Each of the present users will be notified by letter to attend and hear the rationale for the increases. I heard two years ago, loud and clear, that the people that are in the service area that are not serviced should not be taxed on their property taxes to offset the user fee. I absolutely agreed and during our budget process insisted that the taxation component would not be part of the 2012 budget. And it is not! The only people paying for sewer service are those hooked up to the sewer. I do hope that all of the users will attend the meeting with staff. It will be very soon.

Ferry fares and new legislation

I am sure that all of you know that I have been on a committee of all 14 Regional Districts on the coast, including the Island's Trust, for the past year. Our goal was to make sure that the commissioner wrote a good report to the Minister in favour of eliminating the Coastal Ferry Act and lowering fares substantially and putting the ferry system back in the highway system and to treat it as part of the "marine highway".

I have met with the Minister personally numerous times and as a large group with the Premier and the Minster. We also met with the Commissioner twice. We wrote a discussion paper that commented on the Commissioner's report and made our own recommendations.
I am not going to try to recount all of what has transpired here but please go to the following site to read the details:

http://www2.canada.com/courierislander/news/story.html?id=2e67abc3-96f9-40d9-8278-3a5b01ac2e63

Essentially we got hammered once again. An increase in fares this last April 1st. No consideration of being put back into highways. More increases to come. Substantial service cuts on their way. How is that for a responsive government??? I have talked with the MInister twice in the past week, and he is unable to get anything more past his cabinet. There is nothing worse in the human condition than the situation of complete helplessness. How do we change this? What is next? I look to you to come up with another creative solution that will convince government to change their minds. Let me know when you have a solution. I have spent years on this topic. The only thing that worked was putting 500 islanders on the legislative building steps. They rolled back the fares then and they can do it again.

Highways issues

The Safety Council and myself have been trying to get the lines on the island repainted for the past two years. Fortunately we now have a new Area Manager and I have taken a tour of the island with her and had a number of conversations over the past months. She has also taken the time to meet with the Safety Council. She called me this week and let me know that she has gotten approved 12 km's of line painting for the island; not as much as she asked for but all that she could get. The lines from ferry to ferry will be done and I have asked that Heriot bay Rd. from West Rd. up the hill to at least Smith's Rd., make up that "leftover" distance from ferry to ferry. She says that they will continue as far as they can go on Heriot Bay Rd. So, at least a little good news to end on.

There are many other issues on the front and back burner right now, but I think I have taken up my alloted space, so I will stop here. I have been inundated with issues ever since November (and before!) and I am doing my best to deal with them all and will continue to work hard on your behalf. For the time being, 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.

Please do not use my residential phone number for SRD calls. All business calls should be on 285-3355. Many thanks!

Respectfully submitted,

Jim Abram
Director, Discovery Islands - Mainland Inlets (Area C), SRD