The last Union of BC Municipalities (UBCM) annual general meeting before the next provincial election wrapped up Sept. 30, and several top-of-mind issues for the Sunshine Coast were in the spotlight.
Sunshine Coast Regional District (SCRD) chair Garry Nohr joined other RD chairs from around coastal B.C. for a meeting with Transportation Minister Todd Stone.
“It was probably one of the better meetings I’ve been to in a while with the minister,” Nohr said afterwards. “I felt he was not pouring out the old rhetoric that he was before.… He also said we made some mistakes on some of the ferry cuts and we’re sorting that out.”
Nohr said they talked about on-time performance on the Langdale route, the chaos caused on the Earls Cove and Powell River routes by the breakdown of the Queen of Burnaby over the summer, and the upcoming shift to hourly trips with smaller ferries on the Langdale route.
The schedule change, in effect from Jan. 19 to March 31, 2017, will allow for upgrades at the Langdale terminal. Nohr said the minister has agreed to keep close tabs on how well the schedule works to see if it should be considered in the future to minimize delays and overloads.
UBCM delegates adopted a pair of resolutions on marijuana regulations, asking that Ottawa and the province give local governments direct involvement in drafting new laws and that local governments get a share of any federal or provincial tax revenue from marijuana sales.
The District of Sechelt is seeing the issues caused by the changing legal regime around marijuana first-hand. There are three operating dispensaries in Sechelt, along with at least one company awaiting Health Canada approval to grow commercially and several grow-ops covered under the rules allowing medically authorized cannabis users to grow for themselves or designate a grower.
“We would like to be included in the regulatory approach so we can actually make sure it works well on our main streets,” Sechelt Mayor Bruce Milne said. He added that the resolution on taxation follows similar logic. “We’re the ones on the ground who are actually dealing with the issues, but the taxation on marijuana sales and distribution is [going to be] all federal and provincial. We would like to be included in a more meaningful way, rather than simply property tax.”
Another high-profile resolution called for protection of old-growth forests on Vancouver Island, and there were also opportunities to talk about how forest management is being handled across B.C.
SCRD director Mark Lebbell of Roberts Creek took in a special session on community consultation and engagement around forest policy decisions and an event with Forests Minister Steve Thomson organized by the Truck Loggers Association (TLA).
The controversial logging in cutblock A87125 on Mount Elphinstone is happening within the area Lebbell represents.
“Ministry staff heard loud and clear about the need for proactive community engagement to address issues of social licence,” Lebbell told Coast Reporter. “Different communities were asking for consultation for a variety of reasons, but it was clear that MFLNRO [Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations] should be doing better right across the province, and that our experience here on the Coast is a common one.”
Lebbell said he also talked to Thomson about how local governments and the province could work on a “more proactive community engagement process.”
Milne was also at the TLA event.
“The confidence in forestry regulation, the social confidence, isn’t as strong as it was even a decade ago, even though they’ve been bringing in more regulations, and apparently we’re all more environmentally sensitive,” Milne noted. “And that’s a real concern for us on the Coast, of course, because if there was a greater level of confidence and trust in the existing regulations, then the social concerns over Mount Elphinstone wouldn’t be quite as sharp as they are.”
There weren’t as many opportunities to address concerns about Vancouver Coastal Health’s plan for the future of long-term care on the Sunshine Coast. But Nohr said there was a lengthy discussion with the deputy minister of health, and Regional Hospital District chair Frank Mauro (the SCRD director for Area A) was able to get some time with Health Minister Terry Lake.
“We did get our point across,” Nohr said. “And they were quite surprised, I think, in some ways to hear what little consultation had occurred.”
The SCRD was the only Sunshine Coast government that put forward resolutions this year.
One SCRD-sponsored resolution that was adopted called on the province to “prioritize the construction of new bicycle lanes within regional districts limited by a single highway and where bicycle usage is a prominent form of transportation and economic driver for tourism.”
Another resolution asked the province to implement all 32 recommendations from its Climate Leadership Team and “work collaboratively with local governments in order to develop policies and programs to mitigate the impacts of climate change on B.C. communities.”
A third resolution, inspired by the Capilano University Faculty Association’s campaign against charging tuition for adult basic education programs, didn’t end up going to a vote on the floor. Nohr said it was combined with similar motions that were referred to the UBCM executive to consider.