Returning from the annual conference of the Union of BC Municipalities (UBCM), Sunshine Coast politicians brought mixed feedback about the direction of the new NDP provincial government.
At Sechelt Council on Oct. 4, several councillors commented favourably on a “new attitude” on the part of the province.
Councillor Alice Lutes said that she found the provincial presence at UBCM “different” this year.
“The ministers, if they weren’t in meetings with communities, were on the floor or in the workshops. They were very accessible to all of us and that was very refreshing.”
Mayor Bruce Milne concurred, describing the relationships between the new provincial cabinet and Sechelt Council as “very positive.” He and Deputy Mayor Lutes had a meeting with Health Minister Adrian Dix. “It was a positive and, again, very welcoming meeting,” said Milne.
However at Gibsons Council on Oct. 2, Mayor Wayne Rowe expressed frustration with the new government. Rowe did not attend UBCM, but reported that Councillors Silas White and Jeremy Valeriote met with the health minister about the proposal by Trellis Seniors Services to build a long-term care facility in Gibsons and “were not encouraged.”
“Although it’s not a meeting where any decisions were being made, we certainly came away from there with the feeling that we may not get the support we would like to have for this particular project,” said Rowe.
SCRD Chair Garry Nohr, in a telephone interview, said he was interested to meet the new ministers.
“We actually did get some feeling that we are being supported on some of the initiatives that we are working on,” said Nohr.
Nohr met with the minister of transportation and infrastructure, Claire Trevena, who he described as being very familiar with the BC Ferries portfolio through having been the NDP critic for ferries. At the meeting, Nohr raised concerns about ferries, highway maintenance contracts, and bike paths.
Nohr also spoke to Environment Minister George Heyman. “Councillor (Alvina) Paul came with us and she spoke on some of the concerns the Band had about the watershed,” said Nohr, noting that they gave the new minister a file on the history of the watershed to familiarize Heyman with the issues.
Gibsons and Sechelt councillors and SCRD directors all attended UBCM workshops on the impact of the upcoming legalization of cannabis (scheduled for July 1, 2018), and Nohr described them as “the best workshops I’ve been to at UBCM for a long time.”
The municipalities are concerned about marijuana retailers, but Nohr is primarily concerned about growers, noting that there have been complaints in his Welcome Woods neighbourhood about odour so excessive that neighbours cannot go outside in summer. He is hopeful that a rule limiting private growing to four plants per household will provide a means to address the problem.
Mayor Milne interjected a cautionary note in his otherwise positive picture of UBCM, pointing out that the new government is only a few months old and eager to be seen as accessible and making a difference. “We’ll see how their access is in two years,” he said.