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Whistler MP Patrick Weiler reflects on Pemberton Valley issues

Federal leader recently sat down with Pemberton leaders to talk transportation, disaster mitigation and more
Meeting of the minds MP Patrick Weiler attended an informal meeting event organized by the Pemberton and District Chamber of Commerce on February 10. Photo submitted

The Sea to Sky's new Member of Parliament made his way to Pemberton on Feb. 10, where he met with the mayor and members of the local business community.

Patrick Weiler, who was elected in the West Vancouver-Sunshine Coast-Sea to Sky Country riding in October, said he believes the Pemberton Valley's biggest challenge is access to a robust regional transportation system.

"Probably the biggest challenge that I see facing the community—given that it in large part is a bedroom community—is to really address regional transportation," he said.

"So I'm going to be doing everything I can to advocate with the province and to see if there is a role for the federal government to play in the system."

In November 2019, the Sea to Sky regional transit committee—made up of Whistler, Squamish, Pemberton, the Squamish-Lillooet Regional District and the Squamish and Lil'wat Nations—proposed a funding model based on the current provincial/municipal cost-sharing formula for local transit: ridership fares, property tax and a motor fuel tax of 2.5 cents.

But the funding model for corridor transportation was rejected by the province.

On July 2, the District of Squamish issued a release on behalf of the committee, noting that funding solutions are still "under development," and urging the province to reverese its decision.

"I know there's a lot of disappointment that the surcharge on gas wasn't approved by the province, and I think it is a really good model," said Weiler.

While public transit falls within the purview of local government and the province, Weiler said he would continue to advocate for the requested model with provincial decision makers.

"I've been speaking to different MLAs, both within the BC Liberals and the BC NDP caucuses, and I know there is quite a bit of support for this," said Weiler, adding that he thinks a deal is within reach. "I think it's close."

The region's many geo-hazards were also a focus of conversation at the Pemberton meeting, which was organized by the Pemberton and District Chamber of Commerce.

A 2018 engineering report called for significant sediment removal from the Lillooet River over the next several decades, related to the 2010 Mount Meager Landslide.

Weiler said that there might be some federal support for that work thanks to potential reforms to Canada's Disaster Mitigation and Adaption Fund.

Launched in 2018, it is a 10-year, $2-billion national program designed to help communities better withstand current and future risks of natural hazards.

He explained that the prime minister's mandate letter for the Ministry of Infrastructure and Communities indicated a desire to see the threshold for project funding lowered from its current $20-million minimum, opening the fund up for smaller entities to apply to.

"It was [previously] a pretty high threshold that made it difficult for a lot of smaller communities," said Weiler.

As he did in his campaign, Weiler said he is also advocating for reforms to Canada's Temporary Foreign Workers Program.

He is also hopeful that a new program, still in its early stages, could provide some relief in key sectors, such as childcare.

"There is a separate program that is being put together called the Municipal Nominee Program, which will give municipalities and chambers the ability to identify specific sectors where they need additional labour and to create specific immigration spots to address that," he said.

Among the group that met with Weiler were Veronica Woodruff of Stewardship Pemberton, Sue and Bob Adams of the Pemberton Valley Supermarket and chamber president Graham Turner, who said that the exchange of ideas was good and helped create a fulsome discussion—for both Weiler and everyone who sat around the table.

Turner added that the province's chambers are currently developing policy ideas to take to the annual BC Chamber AGM and Conference.

"I think it's good ... just having everyone in a room, talking [and learning about the many issues affecting the area]," he said.