The last week has been busy. After the uplifting experience of attending the expo and trade show here in Barriere, I drove to Prince George to attend the Mayors Caucus.
I was saddened by the number of businesses along the way that were closed up or for sale. I have lived and worked in the various communities between Barriere and Prince George. To see favourite restaurants, gas stations and speciality shops boarded up and the communities they served in varying states of decline is depressing to say the least.
One of the major themes of the Caucus was exploring the ways and means of supporting the multitude of small, rural communities throughout B.C. Revenue sharing was a popular theme. Some attendees thought that the communities that were the recipients of large taxes from resource based industry should be made to share with everyone else. Heated debate came out of this theory and not surprisingly no consensus was reached.
Here in Barriere, and many other small communities there could be more of a locally based revenue sharing put in place. The majority of our commerce is dependant on the forest industry. Years ago there were quite a few small mills throughout our area. They employed local workers, bought supplies in Barriere and supported the economy through their close proximity. With changes in the methods of logging and how mills are run the concept of large centralized mills became the norm. When the small local mills shut down, the local revenue from them was lost.
This has happened throughout the province, and not just here in Barriere. By working to change the way forest tenures are allocated perhaps the small rural communities can get back the revenues that are generated in their area.
The rest of the week was spent with most of council in Salmon Arm attending the Southern Interior Local Government Association convention. This convention is used to produce the resolutions that will be brought forth to the Union of British Columbia Municipalities convention later this year. Barriere put forth two resolutions.
The first was: that the provincial government be requested to develop a program with ICBC to reimburse fire departments that respond to highway incidents which involve non-residents/non-property owners from within the fire department’s taxing jurisdiction. Currently the residents of the community where the incident occurs pay for these costs, which can be considerable should they involve commercial vehicles. This is not an equitable arrangement. Insurance should be structured to cover such incidents and not have the cost borne by local tax payers.
The second was: that the Government of B.C. review its rural police resourcing models to ensure that adequate resources are available to properly police rural communities.
Recently the federal government amended the RCMP Operations Policy on Back Up. This policy requires that for certain specific calls or situations, a two member minimum response is required. Here in Barriere, the detachment staffing level is at one Corporal and three members covering a huge area 24/7. This is not even workable, let alone equitable. We need to work on getting a proper model of coverage that will give us the service we need without taxing our local members beyond any reasonable level of expectations.
When the resolutions came to the floor of the SILGA conference Councillor Stamer rose to speak to the issues, and did an admirable job of convincing the members to endorse both resolutions.
I want to thank all members of council and staff for taking the time to attend and help bring forth our issues.
I attended the all candidates meeting on Friday, put on by the Star/Journal. I agree with those that say some candidates need to read up on the issues.
For one candidate to say they had been campaigning for 18 months and yet prove by their answers they still do not know what the local issues are is interesting.
I do thank all the candidates for attending and I urge you all to get out and ask questions, and most importantly go out and vote.
Remember too that there is a referendum vote held here in Barriere with advance voting on Wednesday, May 15, and the main voting day of Saturday, May 25.