General · 11th October 2013
I would like to thank all of the people who have contacted me by one means or another to comment on my last report. I realize it was long, but there was a lot going on and there still is. I appreciate hearing feedback on my reports. It lets me know that people are actually reading them! So here we go with another one!
Ferries, Ferries and more about ferries!
As most of you already know, I am part of the Coastal Chairs Group regarding BC Ferries. It is made up of all of the Chairs of all of the coastal regional districts and the Islands Trust. I was appointed by our Board to sit in for the Chair since I have been working on this file for so very many years. Thanks to him for the appointment! I think I should back up to the UBCM convention to give you some background information just in case you missed the last report. (some of this will be repetitious… sorry!)
On Tuesday, September 17th, the Chairs group met with the Minister of Transportation and the Premier. We first had an hour-long pre-meeting to get our "script" fine tuned for the Minister and the Premier. After the actual meeting we had another hour-long meeting to de-brief and plan our actions post-UBCM.
The meeting with the Premier and Minister went very well with the usual introductions and chatter about government priorities and lack of funds. We certainly were prepared for all of that and we pushed the UBCM resolution for ferries regarding putting ferries back into highways, that passed unanimously (B 12 if you look it up online) at the convention. We stressed that this is the only way that the government will ever make the system sustainable and affordable and the only way to increase economic development and sustain our populations on the islands, including Vancouver Island. We have, as one of our members, the representative from Metro Vancouver. This is an incredible boon to our cause since they have the major population in the province and support us 100%. We certainly stressed the economic aspects of the communities we represent and the hardship that is being placed on each and every one of them. In the end, the Premier asked, "What would you do, Jim?". That was an easy question to answer. I slid a copy of the resolution over to her (she sat right adjacent to me at the end of the table) and said, "This is the only way you can solve the problem." And then I reiterated the absolute need to treat the ferry system equitably as it is part of the terrestrial component of highways, and to make the ferry system part of the overall highways system and fund it accordingly.
The text of what I read aloud to her as the only solution was the following: "Therefore be it resolved that the provincial government recognize the coastal ferry services as essential extensions of our provincial public highway system and ensure that ferry fares are reduced and core service levels are maintained at current service levels until such time as the provincial government implements legislation that recognizes our coastal ferry services as essential extensions of our public highways system and creates equity between B.C.'s terrestrial and marine, interior and coast highway systems." She was, surprisingly, somewhat receptive and announced that she is assigning the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Transportation with the task of meeting immediately with our group to try and come to a solution. His name is Jordan Sturdy and he is not only an MLA, but also the Mayor of Pemberton.
His visits started last week and he is almost finished meeting with each and every one of us. I met with him on Friday, October 4th, along with our CAO in the Boardroom of the SRD.
We went over his mandate as assigned by the Premier and I then proceeded to give him our perspective on why the system needs to be changed. It was very surprising to hear him say that he had been told that the UBCM option was not being looked at seriously. It then became my job to convince him that the system has had ten years of trial under its present structure and has continued to fail and has continued to stress the government's patience and continually cost them more money. It was illogical to eliminate a proposal for consideration that had been put forward by the entire coastal group and validated by the entire UBCM. Our proposal must be part of the considered options. He went so far as to say, “Point well taken”. He also heard similar comments from each of the other Chairs.
After expressing all of the usual concerns for coastal communities, families and economic development, he did suggest to me that what we need to do is present to the government an economic impact analysis. It seemed that the door had possibly opened a crack at that time. I believe that our proposal, as backed by the UBCM, will be given consideration.
I was very encouraged by the meeting and the fact that the Premier assigned him to work with us and that it all happened so quickly.
I have since reported back to the rest of the Coastal Chairs Group and have suggested a number of things.
First of all, I have suggested that we need to undertake the work suggested by MLA Sturdy on economic impact assessment. Some of this may be done by individual groups within each RD and the rest may need to be done by a qualified person / firm. If this is the case, we will need to agree on some sort of resourcing. I would assume that this would include the possibility of a small financial contribution from each RD and the Islands Trust. After hearing from the entire group I will get back to you on this point. (if there is anyone in this community qualified to do this work, please let me know!)
The next suggestion was that we meet as soon as possible to go over all of the fine points and formulate strategy.
And lastly that we arrange to meet with MLA’s McRae and Stillwell, since they are both MLA’s within government and are both island representatives that could be champions for our coastal communities if they wanted to be. I am awaiting replies to all of the above from the entire group.
I believe that we are actually getting closer to some sort of buy-in from government on this issue. I believe that the reason for this is that they understand that the current model is not working and that they have a dedicated group of locally elected coastal representatives that are willing to help them find a solution.
I will keep you informed of further developments.
Kanish View Estates Road
I have been in touch with our representative at the Ministry of Transportation and she has informed me that, following my request, she has arranged to tour the road along with the Supervisor for Emcon from Campbell River. They will note what work needs to be done right now and establish a work plan for the future upgrades that ail need to take place. So, we have accomplished that goal and they are following through. This is great news for the folks that live in the area.
Esplanade Park transfer.
This Wednesday it will be my pleasure to move the motions that will finalize the transfer documents between the Ministry of Transportation and the SRD to finally transfer over the area of land known as the Esplanade, for park and trail purposes. This issue was before me when I first took office and is finally complete. We as a community will finally have control of that area and have the backing of the SRD and not have to depend on Highways to deal with any problems that arise. My congratulations to the residents in the area who have been so helpful and cooperative in bringing this to fruition.
Granite Bay Park hydro
Just a small item to report with regard to the SRD regional park at Granite Bay. We have been working on getting hydro to the dock for the past year and we have finally completed the transaction and the work. There is now limited power at the dock for occasional use by those who need it. This is not for use by live-aboards or any other type of residential uses at the dock, which are not permitted by by-law. This was done as a convenience to allow boaters use of power for charging batteries or a quick repair. I can put another check next to "jobs to be done"!
Heriot Bay Road upgrades
The Ministry of Transportation was on the island last Wednesday, along with engineering staff, to take a look at the needs for the stretch of road from Rebecca Spit turn off north towards Heriot Bay, along the waterfront. Only one of the engineers was able to attend as the other had family issues to deal with. Subsequent trips are planned. We are going to finally see a useable, safe road along that stretch and I cannot thank the Ministry enough. The officials that I met with at UBCM were so up to date on our situation and so helpful in bringing this all together, after so many years of lobbying. (you can probably tell that I am very pleased!)
Q. Cove Sewer expansion meeting
On September 25th, the SRD staff (CAO, General Manager of Operations and Engineer) hosted a meeting for the residents of the area within the sewer district and for the residents of the area that a proposed expansion is planned for. It was a very informative meeting, letting people know what it would cost to add their property to the existing sewer system. The basic cost will be $9,100.00 per property with a $1,300.00 hook up fee (there are additional costs on the individual properties that are the responsibility of the owner and they will vary according to needs of the actual property). This is down from the last time a proposal was presented. It was for $16,800.00 per property. The difference is due to a Gas Tax Fund contribution that I was able to convince the Board to put toward this project since it is so important to the future of the Cove. The staff suggested that the people present go away and think about it for a short time and then another meeting will be held to answer questions and give any updates. Eventually there will be a vote taken on the issue by one of the means available to local government.
Surge narrows Community Association (SNCA)
I will be attending the AGM of SNCA to hear all of the issues that are important to the outer islands. They are a large part of this electoral area and I do my best to ensure that their views are represented. We have a number or road issues to deal with and I will be bringing them an update from the Ministry of Transportation regarding a tour that we did some months ago, looking at the terrible condition off their roads.
That is about it for now. 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!
Jim Abram Director,
Discovery Islands - Mainland Inlets (Area C), SRD