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Eventful week for Pratt at UBCM

Cranbrook mayor rubs shoulders with provincial ministers, advocates for local issues.
Left to right: Wayne Staudt

It was an eventful conference for Cranbrook Mayor Lee Pratt, who took in his first Union of British Columbia Municipalities convention in Vancouver last week.

Pratt, along with Councillors Tom Shypitka and Ron Popoff, represented Cranbrook at the annual gathering of municipal and regional government representatives, who gather to vote on resolutions and rub shoulders with provincial ministers and staff.

The conference gives local politicians a chance to promote their own projects and funding priorities in their own communities, and Pratt had plenty of opportunity to bring up issues close to home.

Priorities included funding for the dam at Idlewild Lake, logging in areas concerning the wildfire interface, while laundry services and highways also were raised to various government ministers and staff.

However, it was floor resolutions that proved to be the most time consuming, said Pratt. UBCM floor resolutions are policy statements submitted by local governments, which are voted upon by local government representatives.

"I think they spent way too much time on resolutions," said Pratt. "They have so many of them and I think a lot of them could be voted online maybe, and a lot of them are geared towards certain areas.

"So there was one that was pretty controversial that I think the City of Richmond and it was basically a duplication of all the things we have—clean air and all that stuff, and if you read between the lines, I think they're trying to stop the coal trains.

"So the resolutions, I think could be fixed up, I think."

He came away with a positive reaction from Minister Peter Fassbender, the Minister of Community, Sport and Cultural Development, regarding some funding for Idlewild.

And as mentioned in is State of the City address to the Cranbrook Chamber of Commerce a few weeks ago, the city is also looking at doing a major project with Joseph Creek.

"There is, in the very early stages, we're talking about revitalizing Joseph Creek and, of course, you have to deal with a number of ministries on that and they were totally on side with that and I felt really good about that," Pratt said.

A $10 million program for wildfire prevention was announced, which Pratt is hoping to dip into for some work around Cranbrook. Specifically, when it comes to the wildfire interface, Pratt hopes to do some logging that won't end up penalizing Canfor's inventory.

"The timber and the inventory, the way it's shown now, the inventory shows that it's high-value timber, when in actual fact, it's not," he said. "The percentage is offside, so economically, it wouldn't make sense for them to go in and log it, so we tried to make a case for some smaller contractor to go in there and log it accordingly to the strategic plan we have and not affect someone's annual cut.

"They said they'd have another look at that inventory and see what the ranking on it really was."

Other issues such as the hospital laundry services and the plan to relocate the it to the Lower Mainland came up. Pratt noted he wasn't too enthusiastic about the possibility of keeping those services local after meeting with Ministry of Health staff.

"Met with IHA first—that didn't go very far and then I met with the Ministry of Health's staff after that and explained…I realize it's a business decision but I didn't think it was done properly with the way it was tendered with the $15 million bond and the fact that it's four mountain passes that you're going to be hauling dirty laundry to Vancouver, what's that do for your carbon footprint, you're going to have to have extra inventory because what if the roads are closed and I just think that they didn't tender it to include every option, especially the rural areas," Pratt said.

While MGX Minerals Inc. recently made the announcement to buy the industrial land that includes the Tembec mill site, Pratt said that he and Economic Development Officer Kevin Weaver have been in talks with the company since January. Pratt wanted to sit down with the company and a few others to identify how everyone could work together to maximize the potential of the property and the industry.

"They all have synergies that can work together, but they didn't know about it, so I said, 'Well, lets get together with everybody, get them all in a room and see what can happen here'," Pratt said.

"There's lots of good things that are going to come out of that, it's not just MGX, there's other spinoffs that are going to come off that, so that's going to be a big win for Cranbrook."

Pratt applauded the creation of a $75 million Rural Dividend fund for communities with a population under 25,000 and added that plans are in the works to get going on the new Destination Marketing Organization (DMO) that was created to promote Cranbrook and Kimberley.


Trevor Crawley

About the Author: Trevor Crawley

Trevor Crawley has been a reporter with the Cranbrook Townsman and Black Press in various roles since 2011.
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