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Mayor finds common causes at UBCM

Convention brings 2,000 delegates to Whistler to lobby B.C. government for change



Whistler isn't spearheading any resolutions at the Union of British Columbia Municipalities (UBCM) convention but there's a lot on the agenda that has the mayor's eye, and her support.

In addition to concerns about ambulance wait times, Nancy Wilhelm-Morden highlighted several resolutions from around the province that she's keen to support.

They range in scope from wildfire funding and affordable daycare, to invasive species and the environmental review process, to name a few.

"It's a significant lobbying group," said the mayor, who has seen those lobbying efforts in effect when Whistler led the charge for liquor reform at the UBCM two years ago.

"I think things (often) do move slowly though UBCM, but move they do."

The Okanagan-Similkameen Regional District is asking that UBCM request the province increase funding to ensure continued sustainability of the Strategic Wildfire Prevention Initiative program.

The initiative was created a decade ago with a fund of $37 million. The province added another $25 million in 2011, which sees grants go to local governments and First Nations to develop prevention plans and forest fuel management prescriptions and fuel treatments.

It appears that all the funds are committed as of this year.

"Our understanding is a lot of this funding is just going to disappear and that's a move in the wrong direction in my view given climate change and how wildfire really is a risk that so many communities, including Whistler, face," said Wilhelm-Morden.

Whistler is spending more and more every year to deal with this ongoing problem.

The mayor is also keen to support a Sunshine Coast Regional District resolution about Japanese Knotweed and the impact this invasive species is having on local governments. The Sunshine Coast is calling on the UBCM to work with the Ministry of Environment and the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure to recognize the emergency nature of the plant and adequately plan for and fund its removal from provincial roadways.

"We're again spending more money, our local tax dollars, trying to control Japanese Knotweed on municipal property and informing citizens," said Wilhelm-Morden. "The province needs to do its bit, too."

The Sunshine Coast is also calling for more time and input to the BC Environmental Assessment Review process, saying the 30-day public consultation period is not adequate for meaningful public consideration and that there are no opportunities for public comment on the Environmental Assessment Office's report before a Ministerial decision is made public.

"Just generally speaking, those two amendments to the process seem to be wise," said Wilhelm-Morden. "There's an environment assessment review process going on right now with Garibaldi at Squamish (a ski/real estate development long-proposed for Squamish that Whistler does not support). So, it's timely for this resolution to be considered by the province, I think."

The UBCM meets in Whistler Sept. 22-26. The theme this year is "Leading Edge." Communities across B.C. are bringing more than 100 resolutions to the table.

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