RDEK sets priorities for provincial government consideration

Meetings to be held during annual B.C. convention for municipal and provincial politicians

RDEK officials are preparing for a yearly conference that features municipal representatives from across the province who gather to advocate for local issues.

The Union of British Columbia Municipalities annual convention allows local and regional district politicians to network with each other and meet with provincial ministers and make requests for government support on projects and policy.

Likened to speed dating, municipal politicians have a 10-15 minute window to make their pitches to a government minister and deputy staff during the conference on Sept. 23-27, 2019.

The RDEK released its itinerary for meeting with cabinet ministers, which spans a wide range of provincial government areas of responsibility.

According to the speaking notes, the meetings are as follows:

Claire Trevena, Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure

• Highway 1 Kicking Horse Canyon Project – Detour through Radium Hot Springs

Requested by Area G director Gerry Wilkie, the RDEK is asking that all aspects of public safety are considered when Highway 1 is closed east of Golden and traffic is diverted along Highway 95. The request is in response to a planned project that will see the closure of Highway 1 east of Golden, with traffic detouring along Highway 93 and Highway 95. Communities along those routes are raising safety concerns with the potential for increased traffic during the project’s construction period.

• Toby Creek Road

Requested by Area F Director Susan Clovechok, the RDEK is asking the ministry make a capital investment in the road, given that the road requires hundreds of thousands of dollars a year to repair and patch.

• Hosmer intersection

Requested by Area A Director Mike Sosnowski, the RDEK is asking that highway realignment be initiated at the Highway 3/Lynch Road area due to safety concerns at the intersection.

• Highway intersections

Requested by Area B Director Stan Doehle, the RDEK is asking for left turn lanes on Highway 3 at intersections including Bate Avenue and Burton Lake Road in the Elko area. The Elko fire department has also expressed access concerns with those two areas.

• Transit

Requested by Area F Director Susan Clovechok, the RDEK is asking that provincial transit funding be provided directly to local governments rather than through BC Transit in order to meet the needs of rural communities. The RDEK says the current system is cost prohibitive to developing a transit service in rural areas that enables workforce development, healthy communities and climate action adaptation.

Adrian Dix, Minister of Health

• Expansion of East Kootenay Regional Hospital

Requested by Elkford Mayor Dean McKerracher, the chair of the Kootenay East Regional Hospital District Board, the RDEK is asking the ministry to prioritize the expansion of the hospital, as Interior Health is currently in the midst of producing a master plan that maps the required renovations and future additions to the facility.

Doug Donaldson, Minister of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development

• Capital funding for rural fire departments

Requested by Area B Director Stan Doehle, the RDEK is asking the ministry to develop an efficient and effective program to provide capital funding for rural and municipal fire departments. The request stems from concerns that resources are stretched thin during wildfire season, as the RDEK notes that the province does not contribute capital investments for rural firefighting infrastructure.

• Columbia Valley Recreational Access Management Plan

Requested by Area G Director Gerry Wilkie, the RDEK is asking for an update from the ministry regarding support and dedicated resources being utilized for the creation of a recreational access management plan. The Columbia Valley is the only region in the East Kootenay that does not have one, according to the RDEK.

• Headwaters (Columbia Valley) Community Forest

Requested by Area G Director Gerry Wilkie, the RDEK is asking for an update on the status of the Headwaters Community Forest, an initiative that has been in the works for many years.

Lisa Beare, Minister of Tourism, Arts and Culture

• Municipal and Regional District Tax Program

Requested by Area A Director Mike Sosnowski, the RDEK is asking for funding to Destination Marketing Organizations to study how tourism is being managed in rural areas. The RDEK notes that electoral areas are supportive of MRDT and that tourism has brought more people to the backcountry with an increase in use and that more control is needed.

Jinny Sims, Minister of Citizens’ Services

• Rural broadband

Requested by RDEK board chair Rob Gay, the RDEK is hoping to inform and thank the minister, as well as provide background and a progress report, for rural broadband projects in the area.

Lana Popham, Minister of Agriculture

• Kootenay and Boundary Farm Advisors

Requested by RDEK board chair Rob Gay, the RDEK is asking that the ministry provide funding to the Regional Districts of East Kootenay, Central Kootenay, and Kootenay Boundary in order to continue the Kootenay and Boundary Farm Advisors program. The program, created by a partnership with the three government bodies and the Columbia Basin Trust in 2017, provides support and technical services to the agriculture industry. Current funding has been committed to June 2020.

• Agricultural Land Commission Act and Agricultural Land Reserve Use Regulations

Requested by Area A Director Mike Sownsowski, the RDEK is asking to reinstate previous provisions of legislation under the act that allowed for the construction of additional dwellings for farm help, manufactured homes for immediate family members, accommodation above an existing farm building, or a second single family dwelling. According to the RDEK, recent changes to the legislation have limited the total floor area of a principal residence and restricted the construction of additional dwellings. The RDEK says the changes are detrimental for farmers, making it difficult to plan for business succession and throwing up housing barriers for family and workers.

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