UBCM meetings, workshops hold value for Whistler 

Pemberton talks transportation; Squamish wants action on Howe Sound

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B.C.'s annual municipal convention was good value for money, said Whistler's mayor, even if there were fewer chances to bend the ears of Victoria's decision-makers.

At a cost of almost $15,000, all seven members of Whistler's council and the municipality's chief administrative officer Mike Furey attended the five-day Union of British Columbia Municipalities (UBCM) conference in Vancouver last week.

"I think it would have been better for all of council to have gone the last year when it was in Victoria... because we were in the provincial capital there seemed to be more opportunities to rub shoulders with bureaucrats and ministers than in Vancouver but still, I think everybody came away with something," said Nancy Wilhelm-Morden.

The mayor highlighted two workshops in particular that resonated with her.

She attended an asset management workshop, which was timely because Whistler is working on a policy to protect its physical assets. The workshop highlighted the importance of doing this, as well as the fact that models have been in development elsewhere in the world, so Whistler does not have to re-invent the wheel.

Wilhelm-Morden hopes to have a reserves and asset management policy drafted before year-end.

She has also invited a non-profit society to come to council to discuss the idea of a $10/day daycare following a UBCM workshop. The idea is that daycare would move into the Ministry of Education portfolio with a view to what that could mean for the economy.

"Of course we don't really have jurisdiction in daycare but like so many social issues, people in our community look to the municipality for leadership and so I think there are some things that we can do," said the mayor.

Whistler was paying close attention to the conference this year in particular, as it will be held here in 2014.

For Pemberton, a chance to meet with transportation minister Todd Stone was an important outcome of the UBCM.

"It was certainly a very, very busy week but very productive," said mayor Jordan Sturdy, who also wore his MLA hat at the conference. Sturdy is also parliamentary secretary to Stone and played a part in meetings held on ministry issues.

Stone received around 170 meeting requests and accommodated around 80.

"(In regards to Pemberton) we had the dialogue we needed to have and refreshed the minister on several issues... We didn't spend a lot of time talking about the highway and biking because I had been in a meeting not an hour before with the (Squamish-Lillooet Regional District) on exactly the same issue... we certainly told him we were supportive of improving cycling and pedestrian infrastructure between Whistler and Pemberton Meadows, but this was not news to him" said Sturdy.

In terms of the Pemberton Creek Bridge over Highway 99, which is lower than surrounding dykes and a potential breach point for water, Sturdy said the minister was interested in potential partnerships.

"Whether that moves this issue up the agenda is hard to say, given its relatively low-ranking right now," said Sturdy.

They also provided an update on Pemberton Airport to the minister, who again expressed an interest in knowing more about potential partnerships.

A key resolution coming out of the UBCM was an emergency vote presented by the Sunshine Coast Regional District with support from The Future of Howe Sound Society. The resolution called on the provincial government to support the development of a comprehensive management plan for Howe Sound.

The regional district and municipal leaders within the Howe Sound watershed want a coordinated land and marine use planning process involving First Nations, senior and local governments and other stakeholders to ensure natural recovery in the sound continues. The resolution also called for responsible future land-use planning in the region.

The resolution passed by UBCM delegates noted that proposals to mine gravel, establish a liquefied natural gas plant and move coal and bitumen through the region could potentially impact the entire watershed.

The resolution follows increased dolphin and whale sightings in Howe Sound over the last few years, along with a strong pink salmon return late this summer.

Forests minister Steve Thomson was on hand for the UBCM discussion and vote. Gary Nohr, chair of the Sunshine Coast Regional District said the minister was asked if a moratorium on industrial activity in Howe Sound was possible.

"He said no to that and he also said no to a Land and Resource Management Plan (LRMP) because it takes too long and it's too expensive," said Nohr. "So what the (Future of Howe Sound) Society is suggesting is a mini-LRMP."

With files from Alison Taylor, Cathryn Atkinson and John French



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