MLA Sturdy sits down with council for first formal meeting since fall election 

Variety of topics discussed, from parks to childcare

click to flip through (2) STURDY AS SHE GOES - Sea to Sky MLA Jordan Sturdy, left, gets ready to present to Whistler's mayor and council at Committee of the Whole on Tuesday, June 11.
  • STURDY AS SHE GOES
  • Sea to Sky MLA Jordan Sturdy, left, gets ready to present to Whistler's mayor and council at Committee of the Whole on Tuesday, June 11.
 

Whistler's provincial MLA formally sat down with local officials this week for the first time since last fall's municipal election.

Liberal representative for West Vancouver-Sea to Sky and former Pemberton Mayor Jordan Sturdy addressed a wide range of topics at the Tuesday, June 11 Committee of the Whole. The following are some of the highlights from the nearly hour-long discussion.

Parks

BC Parks funding stayed relatively flat in the NDP's most recent budget—increasing slightly from $40,478,000 in 2018/19 to $41,567,000 for 2019/20—a move that came as "a bit of a surprise" to Sturdy, especially given the scale and popularity of B.C's parks, which welcome 19 million visitors a year.

"We have the third biggest park system in North America (after Canada's National Parks and the U.S. National Park System) and we do spend significantly less than the two other jurisdictions on a per-hectare basis," Sturdy noted.

On the persisting topic of overcrowding at Joffre Lakes, Sturdy said there "doesn't seem to be a lot of progress on action for this summer." He has also been vocal about what he sees as a lack of engagement from BC Parks on its long-awaited visitor-management strategy for the provincial park, which is currently in development.

He was supportive, however, of the Ministry of Forests current work with BC Parks on a "visitor-experience decision-making framework."

"So how do you decide how much is enough? This goes to everything from tenures through to investments on the land base," he said, adding that the framework is being fashioned in part on the U.S. National Parks service model. Sturdy also highlighted a pilot project testing the framework currently underway in the Shannon Basin in Squamish.

"I have great deal of confidence in the (ministry) staff in the Sea to Sky and what they're doing," he said.

Search and rescue

Weighing in on a debate that has waged for years in the Sea to Sky, Sturdy said it's important to look at the province's current search-and-rescue funding model and "whether just dumping money in a lump sum from the government every couple years to the BC (Search and Rescue Association) is the right answer," adding that he doesn't feel the current model is sustainable.

"I think it's too inconsistent and too much time is spent on fundraising, frankly, when it could be better spent."

Responding to a question from Councillor Ralph Forsyth about whether he feels search and rescue will eventually be treated as a public service, Sturdy said that "professionalization in certain areas is needed"—but that has to be paired with public education.

"You need to have a plan for self-rescue, and that's a basic principle that, to some degree, is not as appreciated or understood as it once was," Sturdy said. "Is that something we are going to be able to turn back? I don't think so. We're going to have to face the fact that we're going to have to respond."

Childcare

Near the end of the meeting, Sturdy was asked by Coun. Cathy Jewett for his take on the current childcare shortage in the Sea to Sky and across B.C.

"This is another one of those files that never seems to improve, unfortunately," said Sturdy, who added that, ultimately, he sees the problem "in many was as a staffing issue."

"People don't necessarily see early childhood education as a career path," he noted. "There is some stop-gap stuff we're trying to work through with the minister. In fact, I met with her just this fall about this, about getting educational organizations outside of this jurisdiction recognized here, so they are not having to find whether that school from Tasmania, for example, is legit or not."

Sturdy believes the province could streamline the certification process, which he said at this time can take up to "six or seven months, and that's just not acceptable."

He also criticized B.C.'s Ministry of Children and Family Development for pushing to reclassify certain outdoor education programs as childcare.

"So we're trying to work through this with the ministry and Vancouver Coastal Health on if there are exemptions for these programs and how do we classify them? Because they're not really childcare, they're outdoor play programs, and this is just going to add more pressure if we don't get them reclassified," he said.

To read more about Sturdy's meeting, check out Part 2 in next week's Pique.

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