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General · 7th December 2017
Jim Abram
I can’t believe it is already December. This year has just flown by and has been absolutely filled with meetings and issues that needed attention. I did manage to get our “Christmas Lights” up on Dec. 1st. We actually call them “Winter Lights' since I never manage to get them taken down until late in the winter! Some of it is due to procrastination, some is weather and some is just that there are just too many things going on!

Since my Nov. 24th report was on a single topic, I hope all of you have read my Nov. 6th report. It was fairly comprehensive concerning many of the topics that I am dealing with at the moment. I will now try to update where I can while trying to not repeat too much of what has already been written.

Minister visits update
As I listed in detail in the Nov. 6th issue, I did travel to Victoria for three days to meet with a variety of Ministers, MLA’s and ministries. I have had a lot of follow up on those visits and they are proving to have been very productive.

Minister of Education Rob Fleming and his staff met with our SD72 Chair, Susan Wilson, her staff and me at Surge Narrows on Read Island to tour the school, make announcements about internet improvements for the schools and to meet the community of the “outer islands”. It was quite a large gathering of about 50 + people and was incredibly well received by all parties. After they left, I stayed and met with the greater community to update them on the issue of obtaining the large water lease and bit of upland property adjacent to our Surge Narrows Community Wharf.

This was another of the topics that I spent a lot of time dealing with in Victoria with two different Ministers and their staff. I am attempting to get the lease for the community through the SRD, to allow for expansion and access to our existing wharf. The lease also encompasses the old Surge Narrows heritage store building, which the community and I feel is well worth preserving. The two Ministers involved are completely in agreement and only need all the details to come from their staff and the SRD staff to process the transaction. I have spent many hours on conference calls with the ministry staff to sort out all of the issues involved. It is a very convoluted process but can and will be sorted out!

Oceans Protection Plan
This is the program that was announced by the Prime Minister that would allocate $1.5 Billion to the west coast for enhancement of marine protection and safety. I was appointed by our Board to represent our area on this issue. Right after my meetings with all of the Ministers in Victoria I had to take the ferry to Vancouver for two more days of intense meetings on the introduction to this process. One of the topics I was very interested in was the Derelict Vessels work that is being done in partnership with the Feds, the Province and local governments. This is an issue that seems to plague all coastal areas. We all seem to have our specific cases and no one, to date, has been willing to take responsibility. It looks like this is going to change.

For more information on the broader Plan, please visit, www.canada.ca/protecting-our-coasts

Regional District Ferry Chairs Group
For several successive years I have been appointed to represent our Regional District on the group of Board Chairs (I am no longer the Chair, but was decided by the Board that I should be the one to be on the group). We are a group of 13 Regional District Chairs, representing the entire coast including Metro Vancouver (the entire lower mainland) and the Capital Regional District (the entire greater Victoria area). We represent approximately one million people on the coast and an area that contributes 38% of the Gross Domestic Product to the Provincial economy. We are supported by the Union of BC Municipalities and do have the ear of the Government. We met (once again!) in Victoria on the 21st and 22nd to discuss strategy and to have an official meeting with our Minister of Transportation, Claire Trevena. It was a very productive meeting where we concentrated on eliminating the Coastal Ferry Act, reinstating the Ferry Authority back into the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure, Marine Division, and all of the other issues that we have all been fighting for over the past 16 years of failed experiment. I asked that our schedules be returned to the one that was taken away from all of us and we all agreed that we want reduction in fares, seniors full discount and I threw in one more: reduction in fares for young people whom we need so desperately on the islands. If you want to read a full synopsis of the meeting, see the SRD Board minutes of Dec. 7th. (strathconarc.ca) I provided a report for the Board, but it is too long to reproduce here.

Ferry Advisory Committee (FAC) meeting
I attended the FAC meeting along with a number of Quadra and Cortes members, Chaired very ably by Paul Ryan, and numerous senior staff from BCFS. This committee is a creature of BCFS and is not supposed to be political (that is my job at the Ferry Chairs), but we always manage to sneak in
a few political comments to keep them aware of our “awareness”. We talk mostly about operational issues such as vessel movements, traffic, usage, loading and priority sailing issues, etc.

FAC and the “outer islands"
The one new issue that I brought up on the agenda was the possibility of allowing in the winter months, the very few outer islanders who use the ferry to get to town to be included in the two Cortes sailings that have priority status. This allows the people in the outer islands that have to cross in dangerous conditions to Hoskyn Channel Landing to be able to make the trip while it is still light. Bad weather and darkness are a recipe for disaster. The Committee agreed to try and make this work.

Highways Ministry and Emcon Services meeting
This meeting was to talk about priorities regarding our roads. This is one of the real sore spots in my position as Director. We have a Ministry that is in charge of Highways but that is forced by provincial policy to contract out the maintenance of the roads to Emcon Services. Theoretically this should work just fine. However, it doesn’t! There is not enough money in the budget to do all of the things that need to be done and we all see the results. We are many years behind in road paving, line painting, ditch clearing and brushing and so on and so on. The contractors were all there to hear from all of us as were the Highways managers. And they did get an earful from a number of people. We have been promised paving for many years and it has never happened except in small patches. I believe you will see some major work this next season. Pothole filling started at the north end the very next day. Coincidence? Maybe. But I think it had something to do with the contractor managers from the “big island” hearing first hand how bad things really are. This is not a rant at our employees on the island. They do the best that they can with what they have. I do believe that due to our continuing lobby effort they are now getting another truck and another person, full time. So all of this complaining has helped.So let’s support our crews when they are out there doing their job and give them a pat on the back. They don’t work in the best of conditions!

Mt. Seymour Recreation Area “ideas” meeting
An open house was hosted by the SRD on the 22nd to gather information on the proposal by the SRD and the community to formalize the recreation areas in and around Mt. Seymour, Morte Lake, and Chinese Mountains. This was not a “proposal” per se. It was a gathering of information of what is there, who has an interest and how is it currently used. We had two consultants (paid for by a grant) on hand with some amazing maps for everyone to look over, mark up and put notes and post-its on. It was a very congenial meeting and the consultants will now go back and compile what they heard and bring back a report to the community on options. I personally met with Chief Brian Assu and had numerous exchanges by email and phone as to their possible interests in the area in forestry, and tourism. I expected them to have a representative there but no one attended. I will continue to try and discuss this proposal with him since they are our neighbours and part of the dialogue and definitely have an interest.

Budget workshops
We have had three SRD budget workshops on the high level overview of where the budget might go in this next year . It is a very difficult conversation since we do not have all of the accurate year-end information that we need to do a proper analysis. I will keep you informed as we go.

Marine area Planning Partnership (MaPP)
This is another committee that I have been appointed to for a number of years and it consists of the Province and First Nations and local government along with all stakeholders that are interested. We are having a two day long overnight meeting in Campbell River on Dec. 3 and 4. We are looking at marine planning from the bottom of Quadra to the Central Coast and there are other committees looking at the North Coast. This is an extremely important exercise as it will govern how we allow our coast to be used taking all interests into account including preservation.

SRD Governance Committee
The Board has been grappling with how we govern ourselves for some time now. Our codes of conduct and other documents have just not done the trick. Behaviour at the Board table is sometimes not all that we would like to see it be. You would think that this should be simple. It is not, believe me! When you get strong opinions and put 13 of them at the same table, anything can happen. So, in an attempt to try and make things better, we had workshops with a facilitator and on recommendation of the Board, set up a Select Committee comprised of the Chair, Vice Chair and, yours truly, to meet and solve the problem! I appreciate the confidence in me shown by the Board, but what a task! We meet on Dec. 6th. I’ll let you know how we make out!

That has got to be enough info to keep you busy! I will not be doing another report until after the Holiday Season so I wish you all a very Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays and a safe and sane New Year at this time. Enjoy, everyone!

Feel free to contact me between the hours of 8:30 am and 5:00 pm, Monday through Friday (please, not on weekends or holidays, 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