RDEK bring concerns to UBCM

Area directors to meet with provincial ministers to discuss regional issues.

It’s not just municipal politicians that get to rub shoulders with provincial and federal counterparts at an annual convention in Vancouver.

Representatives from each of the 29 Regional Districts, including Area Directors from the East Kootenay, are also in the Lower Mainland to meet with provincial ministers and advocate for rural issues at the Union of B.C. Municipalities conference this week.

For RDEK board chair Rob Gay, there are a few things the RDEK is bringing to the convention, specifically to a few provincial ministers.

“These aren’t meetings where you sit down and hammer out a decision,” Gay said. “These are 15-minute meetings, so basically, you have a chance to make your case…and answer their questions. They kind of nickname it down here ‘speed dating’.

“Often what comes out of it and what we look for is a follow up meeting with a deputy minister or associate deputy minister and they’re always present with the ministers.”

From an RDEK perspective, a few issues include meeting with appropriate ministers to get an update on the official government position on the proposed Jumbo Glacier Resort project as well as the first phase of the West Fernie Servicing and Restructure Project.

Gay also noted plugging for assistance to replacing the dam up at Idlewild Park, which was already on the agenda for Cranbrook municipal politicians.

“I think if they hear it from more than one source, it’s helpful too, because they’re getting lobbied from all over the province on different things, so if we’re consistent in our lobbies, I think it goes a long way,” Gay said.

In total, the RDEK had eight meetings set up with various government ministries.

With the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure, Gay wanted to address traffic issues in the Elk Valley, which can include backups from heavy volume in the summer months. He also wants a few more passing lanes and a light-controlled intersection at the Sparwood-Elkford junction on Highway 3/93.

In the Columbia Valley, there are some access concerns to Lot 48 at the north end of Columbia Lake, which is an area restricted to vehicle access. There is also a meeting set up with the tourism ministry about a branding and marketing initiative for the region.

Another issue that Gay hopes to address has to do with the Agricultural Land Commission.

“The ALR has a section in their act that allows them to delegate the responsibility or the authority for making decisions if a piece of property could be subdivided within the ALR,” Gay said.

“They can delegate that authority and they have—in our case—done that in the area around Wasa and we’d also like the same authority around Fernie, so we’re going to speak to them about that.

“It’s not about taking land in or out of the ALR—that’s not our authority—but we could have the authority to subdivide if the land were to stay within the ALR, so we’ll see how that goes.”

Logging on private land in the Elk Valley and Flathead Valley is also a concern, he continued.

“We also want to know about private forest land legislation because some of the private forest land in the Elk Valley, some very large sections of land in the Elk Valley and the Flathead Valley, are being logged from one end to the other with no sign of any reforestation, which, on private land, they can do but we’re not impressed with that because of creeks, wildlife and all the other uses of that property,” Gay said.

The UBCM conference runs all week long in Vancouver.