The Pemberton Valley’s elected officials returned from last week’s Union of British Columbia Municipalities (UBCM) convention in Victoria feeling optimistic about meetings with provincial ministers on issues specific to the region.
All of Pemberton council and Area C director Susie Gimse travelled to the convention and met with several provincial cabinet members while in the capital, discussing an array of concerns ranging from road quality, flood protection, municipal infrastructure and more.
“In most cases, I was pleased with the response we received and receptiveness to the issues that we have at hand,” said Pemberton Mayor Jordan Sturdy during Tuedsay’s (Oct. 2) council meeting. “Granted, though, these are 15-minute meetings. It’s really difficult to … go into any kind of substantial discussion.
“We’ll receive letters of follow-up from the minister or ministry staff, which will create a point in time where we can have a dialogue and refer back to discussions that we’ve had.”
In a meeting with transportation minister Mary Polak, Gimse said she and Village of Pemberton representatives brought up a number of issues with conditions on Highway 99 north of Whistler, including the need to improve shoulders for cyclists and the necessity of a northbound passing lane on Suicide Hill instead of the “informal arrangement” that currently exists.
Deteriorating conditions on the Duffey Lake Road, Portage Road, Highline Road and the Hurley Forest Service Road were among some of the other roadways local officials brought to Polak’s attention.
Sturdy said he was encouraged by discussions with Minister of Justice Shirley Bond, whose department oversees emergency management, regarding stream-flow monitoring and Birkenhead River flood concerns.
“Interestingly, the minister was responsive to both of those and I think this is one of those situations where persistence is going to pay off,” said Sturdy.
Gimse also highlighted a meeting the Squamish-Lillooet Regional District (SLRD) electoral area directors had with Premier Christy Clark, in which the directors stressed the importance of making broadband Internet access and cellphone service available to residents in remote areas.
“We emphasized that it’s about safety, in particular when you’re travelling in some of the remote areas without cell service,” said Gimse. “There are some pockets in Area C that do not have broadband service, and we pointed out that we have a lot of young families with students going to school who need to have access to broadband in order to do their homework. In addition, we have people who can’t relocate to the area because they can’t work from home.”
Gimse also said she found it difficult to go in-depth on specific issues due to the short time allotted for each meeting.
“Did we get a lot of answers back? I’d say no, but we did get a commitment to look into (our concerns) and feel there’s a lot of follow-up on behalf of the regional district that’s required,” she said. “But overall, it was good to ensure that all of the ministers and the premier were familiar with the things we face in our region.”
Meanwhile, a Village of Pemberton resolution calling for run-of-river hydro projects to release their stream-flow data to the B.C. River Forecast Centre was not only supported by UBCM delegates at the convention, it was also one of just five passed resolutions to earn a Gold Star designation, said Sturdy. Resolutions earning a Gold Star need to be new topics for the UBCM that meet criteria including clarity, simplicity and relevance to the entire province.
With last week’s convention being the first since the 2011 municipal elections, Coun. Mike Richman said he left Victoria pleasantly surprised by his first visit to the event.
“It was a lot more productive and interesting than I thought it was going to be,” said Richman. “There’s a lot to learn, and it’s motivating, too, being in a group of like-minded people, meeting with cabinet ministers and taking it to a different level.”