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General · 5th October 2014
Jim Abram
I am now back from the Union of BC Municipalities convention and what a week it was! I said in the last report that I would let you know how things went. All I can do is give you a brief summary of the main highlights since the number of things that happened are so many and it was all so intense. I heard while I was there that a CR elected person criticized going to such conventions as a waste of time. I couldn’t disagree more. The number of contacts made and conversations had made the time well spent and productive. Two days later and I am still just getting my energy back. These conventions are weird. While there, I have enough energy for ten people, but as soon as it is over there is always a huge crash and then a re-charging necessary. So, it is now time to get back to work. Keep in mind that what is posted below does not include all of the other events and forums I attended. These are just a few of the highlights.

Convention highlights (from my perspective)
One thing about the UBCM is that they always have a full slate of workshops, speakers and forums to go to as the standard program. My biggest problem is fitting in as many as I can in between all of the important meetings that I have set up to deal with our issues with the Provincial people attending.  

!!Policy Paper on BC Ferries - Study Forum - (go to http://ow.ly/BluIe for the UBCM report, the policy paper and the Consultant’s report)

The convention was basically planned around this Paper and its release and the vote by the delegates (about 1500). On Tuesday, we had, along with the consultant hired by UBCM to write the Socio Economic Study, an hour and 45 minutes to present to the delegates the Paper and explain the details to them so that they could go into the plenary debate on Wednesday in an informed state. We had to move to a bigger hall just to get everyone in that was interested. These were people from all corners of the province, not just the coast. The presentation by our consultant was exemplary. He explained and defended the report in light of the horribly inappropriate letter from Minister Todd Stone criticizing it on the previous Friday. We had no response from the Government over a period of months of trying to get them to the table. They were even sent an advance copy of the Paper before it was ever released. They were asked to participate. Silence. Then at the 11th hour, all that we got was an insulting, defamatory letter condemning the report while not offering a report of their own to counter ours. Why was that? Because they don’t have a report and never have had one. Go to this site to see the entire 4 page letter for yourself:  http://www.newsroom.gov.bc.ca/downloads/Letter.pdf?WT.mc_id=NEWS&WT.cg_n=HootSuite

Policy Paper release and delegate vote
Each year UBCM usually does 2 to 6 policy papers to be considered by the delegation. At this convention they were so committed to us that they kept it to one policy paper so that there would be no competition or distraction from the ferry issue. Having been on the UBCM Executive for ten years and President, I know what a big deal this is for them. It worked. When a policy paper or a resolution comes up for a vote, to save time, if there are no speakers in opposition the item goes right to a vote. The UBCM Resolutions Committee Chair (Councillor Claire Moglove from CR) came to me and asked that even if there were no speakers at the “con” mikes, that I get up and introduce the Paper for 3 or 4 minutes. No one got up to oppose, so I went to the mike and proudly presented the Paper and my thanks to the UBCM, the Association of Vancouver Island Coastal Communities, the Select Committee and the RD Chairs Group (both of which I am a part of). The paper was then up for voting. It passed UNANIMOUSLY!. This rarely happens at UBCM. The room cheered and we moved on. The media grabbed me and did many TV and radio and print pieces. I did media from 6:45 am until 9:30 pm (TV at 9:30 pm, believe it or not!) every day. The media circus started a week before the convention and escalated as we got closer to the day of release.

Meeting with the Premier, Minister of Transport and Minister of Jobs and Tourism
Later that same day, our RD Chairs Group had a scheduled meeting with the above mentioned. There were about 14 of us meeting with them. Our meeting was supposed to be 15 minutes and it went into 45 minutes due to the enormity of the topic and the back and forth that the topic elicited. We spoke most of the time and only let the Premier and Ministers in as seemed necessary. It is terrible to go to a long awaited meeting of that importance and have them do all the talking until they run the clock out. Not so in this meeting, in spite of their bulldog trying to get us to leave so the next group could come in. The Premier herself told him we needed more time and he backed off. Another thing you don’t see too often. In the end, we did get an admission (which was a really big deal for these folks) that “yes, the ferry fares have driven down ridership” (in so many words). They also agreed that we would need to meet again in November as soon as the Premier gets back from a junket to India. They also seemed to understand that our communities are hurting and so graciously (pardon the facetious tone) told us that they would be looking at holding the rate increases to the level of inflation in the next Performance Term (2016), after raising the fares in 2015 by 4% ! I could feel them feeling the pain! They proceeded to tell us all about the great things they are going to do to reduce the costs of running ferries: LNG, bridges, etc. to which I had to interrupt and I told the Premier that she is at least 5 to 10 years from ever seeing any LNG available if it should ever happen. They really have been thoroughly brainwashed into believing that their band-aid solutions will stop the bleeding in our communities. One might feel sorry for them if their arguments were not so pitiful!

Media
We have gotten intense media coverage every day for the past two weeks and it is going on daily. It has actually been going on daily since last November’s announcement to raise the fares and cut the service. But now that the Policy Paper and consultant’s numbers are out there quantifying what we have all suspected all along, the media is in a frenzy!  There have been major articles and editorials by all of the heavy-hitters daily. Every TV station has carried the story. I was fortunate enough to convince CBC National TV to come out and do a two day filming on Quadra of our business people and a sample of our residents and it was great!. So we are now a National story. The province is shaken. They are embarrassed since they did not do a socio-economic study of their own to start with. The media picks on this point constantly: that a government could make such major decisions with such province wide consequences without anything to back it up. The media will continue. You can search it on Google news and at least get some of it. Much of it is also posted on my Face Book site at https://www.facebook.com/JimAbram  

Meeting with Highways Ministry
I scheduled a meeting with the Ministry to deal with a number of key issues that I have to deal with here at home (unrelated to Ferries!). The first on the list was the condition of our paved roads on the south end of the island (Hy Bay, South). The big one was the condition and safety issues concerning Heriot Bay Road along Drew Harbour. The erosion has been quantified by a third party consulting engineer that they hired. When I read his report and recommendations I immediately asked for this meeting prior to UBCM. His recommendation was to “Do nothing and monitor”. Well, we have had a number of serious incidents with dump trucks and constant complaints from pedestrians and cyclists and the bank, in places is undercut under the road by 1.5 meters according to his report. There is little shoulder and few trees left to hold the road in place. So why do we have to wait for a disaster? I was well received and they will be taking a close look at it.  I also brought up the deplorable condition of the pavement on all of the roads and the impossibility of our few crew at Emcon to even keep up with the daily problems. I explained how the Ministry finally came along and painted our lines in some areas (5 years late!) and then weeks later spread oil on some of the cracked portions of the road and spread gravel on each spot, and effectively covered most of the new lines. A bit of a timing issue! I am sure they were quite embarrassed by these points and tried to assure me that they will do better and look into all of it. I don’t want to make enemies of the very people that actually do help us out. It was a congenial meeting and by being such I am sure I got more out of them I would have had I gone in with a stick!. We’ll see. They do have us on their list for more work next season.

Meeting with the Ministry for Technology, Innovation and Citizens Services
I had quite the provincial group for this one and guess what we talked about?! Internet and cell / data service. We went through the entire issue once again. I have met with some of these folks before but they brought some of their senior people to this meeting and I brought along our Chief Administrative Officer as a witness and back up!.  We were told of a number of new programs, both Federal and provincial and as a result will be pursuing the Federal one. I explained how ridiculous our situation is on Quadra and surrounding islands and they agree. They encouraged me to continue to meet with Telus in Victoria and they will also talk with them. That is a bonus. I emailed Telus today to set up a meeting time in the near future. I made it very clear that we want fibre optic service all the way to the ends of the island and improved cell / data to the surrounding areas with their new technologies they so often brag about. 

Various and sundry
I met with many people at this convention. Among them was the Leader of the Green Party, Adam Olsen. We had about an hour together and he actually used many of my points around ferries during his address to the convention. I also met with many members of both the Government and the Opposition and also a number of Federal candidates from various parties. These Federal meetings will add to my next strategy around ferries. I am not going to discuss that one just yet. But I will keep you informed as things develop. Don’t want to give too much away.

I think that is about as much as I can get into this report without upsetting the editors. 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… or on Facebook at  https://www.facebook.com/JimAbram…. If it is important, my cell is 250-830-8005… 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