The Union of British Columbia Municipalities (UBCM) convention is finished for another year. This year I attended along with Councillors Paula and Stamer. Bill Kershaw attended in his role as a TNRD director. Councillors Stamer, Paula and I each took one of the three resolutions Barriere council had sent for consideration. Two resolutions passed with flying colours. One was soundly defeated. That resolution was around giving corporations a vote in service area referenda. The concept of businesses having a vote on anything has never been a popular one. It did have some support from rural communities and most certainly was worth bringing forth if for nothing other than letting small businesses know we care about their ability to control their costs.
The North Thompson and Robson Valley mayors and chairs had a meeting on rural sustainability with Premier Clark, Jobs, Tourism and Skills Training Minister Bond and Energy and Mines Minister Bennett. Minister Bond was tasked with reigniting the economic development pilot that was done here in the valley last year when Pat Bell was the minister. This program will work towards improving the sustainability of the communities here in the valley by providing guidance and help to increase job growth and business opportunities. Minster Bennett was tasked with finding ways to supply the valley with the reliable, clean power that will attract these industries and businesses. These are not easy tasks but both ministers are well able to affect some long needed stimulus for our area.
Premier Clark announced during her speech at the closing of the conference that an accelerated push to grow rural communities in B.C. will be headed by Forests, Lands and Natural Resources Minister Thomson. The premier recognized that the true wealth in our province lies with our people. A good percentage of people live in rural communities that are slowly dying. There is a very definite need to sustain and grow rural communities for the overall economic health of the province.
I also attended the mayor’s caucus just prior to UBCM last Monday. I got up at 3:30 a.m. to drive down to Vancouver and found that the power was out. The outage provided a good topic for many discussions about the difficulties all rural communities face around power issues. Barriere is not alone in this regard. Many of the meetings held throughout the conference included the lack of reliable power as an issue.
Council and I met with Minister Thomson around gaining ownership of our parks. Things are creeping along. We were there to put forth our case to have the process expedited. Again, nothing seems to happen overnight.
There were many opportunities to meet with and promote our community throughout the conference. China’s consul-general in Vancouver, Liu Fei, hosted a reception at last year’s UBCM in Victoria with a limited invitation to municipal mayors. But this year, she expanded the invitation to all delegates. No other foreign government has ever hosted a reception for UBCM delegates. During this reception Barriere councillors and I had a chance to speak with various Chinese business people and consular staff some of which have visited Barriere before.
Economic development is most often a slow process based on honest communication and trust based relationships. More than a few corporations have expressed interest in setting up shop here in Barriere. Quite a few of these negotiations are for one reason or another privileged information. This creates a problem in that it may look like nothing is being done.
Barriere council is actively pursuing new opportunities. Much work is being done each and every day. Do not believe stories that we are not pursuing every possible opportunity for new industry to locate here. In the end where a business chooses to locate is up to them. Choices are made based on what is needed. The need for a rail siding, required environmental permits that cannot be obtained or a multitude of other issues may tip the scales the wrong way for Barriere. It is never as simple as the wrong zoning. That can be corrected. Some issues are not as easy.
Council and staff are committed to providing a sustainable environment that will attract new economic opportunities to Barriere.