Sea to Sky councils prepare for busy UBCM 

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It's costing Whistler about $15,000 to send council and its administrator to the Union of British Columbia Municipalities convention next week and that's money well spent, said the mayor.

Unlike last year when less than half of council attended in Victoria, along with municipal administrator Mike Furey, the full team will be represented in Vancouver from Sept. 16-20.

"In retrospect... I was sorry that everybody hadn't gone over (last year)," said Mayor Nancy Wilhelm-Morden.

"These conventions are invaluable for meeting with other elected officials, and hearing about challenges, discussing best practices."

This year's cost for Whistler's registration is $4,987. A further $8,970 will be spent on accommodation. Council will also incur travel costs.

This year's convention theme is "Navigating the Local Landscape."

There are 155 resolutions on the table this year.

The issues vary from federal medicinal marijuana grow licenses and ensuring food security to Trans Canada Highway upgrades and a PST tax exemption request.

"We're not spearheading any resolutions this year but there certainly are resolutions on the table that we will be interested in and will be supporting," said Wilhelm-Morden.

She specifically highlighted the resolutions dealing with conflict of interest of elected officials and another dealing with search and rescue squad funding.

Aside from the convention itself, Whistler's mayor highlighted the other meetings, both formal and informal, that take place during the week — meetings with provincial ministers, and deputy ministers, the Resort Collaborative and the Mayor's Caucus.

Last year, for example, Whistler and BC Transit met at UBCM and worked out a deal for Whistler to save $328,000 in transit costs by agreeing that Whistler did not have to pay the refurbishment costs for 12 Dennis DART buses, no longer used by the local system, among other things.

Whistler, Wilhelm-Morden added, will be taking a keen interest in UBCM this year given that the 2014 convention will be held in the municipality.

The last time it was held in Whistler was September 2010, which set a record at the time as the busiest September. The convention attracts some 2,000 delegates, not including family members, from around the province.

The District of Squamish has sponsored a resolution calling on the province to amend the Fire and Police Services Collective Bargaining Act, so it protects local governments from escalating fire fighter wages and benefits that don't recognize the ability of communities across the province to pay the increasing costs.

Pemberton is doubling up on a few meetings with the SLRD and its other regional partners, but the village's chief administrative office Daniel Sailland said the list of topics was smaller than in previous years because "we've actually had quite a few things move ahead in the last 12 months, so our plate is full."

The Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure is an important meeting for Pemberton, Sailland said, because of three issues in particular. He said they wanted information on the process the village should follow for getting highway widening and bike trail initiatives underway, particularly of interest following Ironman and The Slow Food Cycle in August.

As well, the village would like the ministry to look at the "standing issue" of the Pemberton Creek Bridge on Highway 99, which Sailland said was below the height of the dyke surrounding it, leading to ice and water on the road in the winter.

"With future development it is problematic because we are being asked to lift dykes and meanwhile the bridge would compromise those. We want to get that project moving," Sailland said.

The village would also like to discuss the expansion of Pemberton Airport as a "key initiative" and brief the ministry on plans.

Finally, Sailland said the village will also speak to the Ministry of Forests about reopening access to Meagher Creek hot springs, closed by a landslide in 2010, as well as forest cutblocks belonging to Squamish Mills. The village is also working on a community forest plan for the area.

The Squamish-Lillooet Regional District (SLRD) has highlighted a variety of minister, ministry, agency, commissions and corporation meeting requests for the UBCM that are priorities.

In an email, the SLRD said these include: Office of the Premier/Ministry of Technology, Innovation and Citizens' Services — to discuss cellular phone and broadband internet services in rural areas; Ministry of Community, Sport & Cultural Development — discuss plans for Riverside Park in rural Pemberton; Ministry of Justice — to discuss a Mt. Meager and Upper Lillooet River flood early warning system and Cataline Creek; Ministry of Forest, Lands & Natural Resources — to discuss economic development/tourism in Bralorne, look at Tunnel Dam at Britannia Beach, to explore public notices regarding timber harvesting and road construction, and discuss road issues, specifically Road 40, Duffy Lake Road and Highways 12 and 99; Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure — discuss road issues, specifically Road 40, Duffy Lake Road and Highways 12 and 99, as well as safety for cyclists; and Ministry of Energy and Mines — BC Hydro capacity constraints.

— With files by John French and Cathryn Atkinson —



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