Ask and sometimes you will receive.
This is a lesson Salmon Arm and Sicamous took away from the recent Union of B.C. Municipalities convention.
Representatives of both municipal councils were among the 1,500 or so local government delegates to vote on 203 resolutions, ranging from the high-profile vote to lobby Ottawa for the decriminalization of marijuana (passed), to backing the consumption of booze at music festivals and special events (passed), to redistributing the $82 million a year casino host cities get to communities without gambling facilities (failed). None of the resolutions, however, were submitted by the District of Sicamous or City of Salmon Arm’s councils. Instead, both of these delegations attended this year’s convention with something of a hit list to raise with specific provincial ministers.
The biggest issue for Sicamous was water. In particular, getting the B.C. government’s support, and funding, for a new water treatment plant. After stressing this need with the appropriate ministers, Sicamous council and Mayor Darrell Trouton were overjoyed to hear Premier Christy Clark, in her speech to UBCM delegates, commit the province to helping the district fix its water problem.
Salmon Arm council also received an unexpectedly quick and positive response after meeting with B.C. Attorney General Shirley Bond. The purpose of this meeting, led by Coun. Alan Harrison, was to discuss the need for an intersection camera in Salmon Arm on the Trans-Canada Highway. Mayor Nancy Cooper said Bond was well informed of the situation, and was made aware of the rigamarole Salmon Arm has been going through.
“When we talked with the attorney general, Shirley Bond, her deputy minister said, ‘well you know there’s 204 intersection camera requests ahead of Salmon Arm,’” explained Mayor Nancy Cooper. “And (Bond) said, ‘well, how many of those have we sent letters to saying we would do it and not done it?’ And he said, ‘well, none.’ And she said, ‘how many municipalities have said they would put up $100,000,’ which is what it costs to get that camera? ‘How many of them have put up that money themselves?’ And he said none. So she said, ‘then I think Salmon Arm moves to the top of the list.’
Cooper says the morning after that meeting with Bond she received a call from ICBC wanting to discuss the intersection camera further.
“They were wanting to talk to me and I said I would talk more when I got home,” said Cooper. “But that was quite nice – the very next morning.”
Another instance of gratification for Cooper and Trouton came in Clark’s announcement that the province will be investing $650 million over the next 10 years into four-lane improvements of the Trans-Canada Highway between Kamloops and the Alberta border. This came as a bit of a surprise for Cooper, Trouton, and Revelstoke and Golden mayors David Raven and Christina Benty. Prior to the announcement, the four had met to discuss shared concerns about the highway before meeting with BC Transportation and Infrastructure Minister Mary Polak.
“(Polak) was saying well, we understand but you know, the economy, right now it’s not a great time and there’s not a lot of money to put towards it and this kind of thing,” said Cooper. “So when we heard (Clark) on Friday, we were like, ‘yes!’ We were all pretty happy to hear that in the premier’s speech.”
Sicamous’ hit list also included lobbying Fortis to bring natural gas to the community. Trouton said the meeting went very well, and that Fortis will continue surveying the district over the next couple of months to see if connecting the community is viable. Trouton was also pleased with the response from the province to the notion of establishing a gateway tourism centre in Sicamous.
“The (tourism) minister’s staff will be taking the lead on it, getting back to us and collaborating with Parks Canada as well,” said Trouton. “So they’ll come to Sicamous and assess the idea.”
There were additional positives for Salmon Arm council as well. They met with both the Education Minister Don McRae, Shuswap MLA George Abbott, as well as Advanced Education Minister John Yap to lobby for support for the downtown campus proposal. Coun. Debbie Cannon took the lead on this presentation, and Abbott accompanied council for their presentation to Yap.
“Then, after we finished meeting with the minister of advanced education, we’d heard it had been endorsed by the (Okanagan College) board of governors, so that was really exciting,” said Cooper.
Coun. Chad Eliason took the lead in explaining Salmon Arm’s need to Community, Sport, and Cultural Development Minister Bill Bennett for future funding to replace aging sewer lines. Bennett responded by saying the city would need a good plan, and that there’s $10,000 in funding available to put together such a plan.
“They realize probably every community in the province needs sewer upgrades, right, and there would possibly be some federal money down the road,” said Cooper.
Both Trouton and Cooper commended their respective councils for the long hours and good work they put in at the convention. And Cooper acknowledged the importance of working together with neighbouring councils like Sicamous’.
“I noticed we were leaving one meeting just as they were going in, and we said, ‘it’s okay, we didn’t take any money, it’s all yours,” laughed Cooper. “It’s nice to have that connection with other councils in our area so you can have these kinds of conversations about how we can help each other, and the kidding around too.”