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SLRD to launch awareness campaign on IPP legislation

Regional district not willing to accept changes to Utility Act



The Squamish-Lillooet Regional District (SLRD) is not about to accept the changes to Bill 30 without a fight.

The amendment to the Utilities Bill effectively removes regional and municipal government from the decision-making process around independent power projects (IPP) built on Crown land. The provincial government early last month passed the amendment, assumed by many to have been introduced to assist in the development of the Ashlu River IPP.

At the most recent SLRD board meeting, the board passed a resolution asking the province to repeal the legislation. As well, the district has allocated $30,000 towards developing a public awareness and education plan.

"When you read mainstream newspapers you get province and industry perspective not the local government or municipal perspectives," said Susie Gimse, SLRD director for Electoral Area C.

The SLRD is soliciting interest from other local governments who may wish to continue to the campaign and district staff is looking at potential PR firms to carry out the project.

"Basically, we want to get the message out what the impact of the legislation is to community and local governments," said Gimse.

The veteran politician describes the legislation governing IPPs as being vague and broad. She is concerned that it may have implications on all aspects connected with IPPs, from secondary suppliers to building permits. Many area residents have voiced their support for the SLRD’s position.

"For the most part the feedback I get on the streets it that we’re glad you’re persuing this," Gimse said. "People familiar with IPP development are upset.

And therein lies the challenge. Communities such as the Sea-to-Sky corridor – which has also has the highest number of licenses on its waterways – the Fraser Valley Regional District, Sunshine Coast Regional District and the Kootenays have a relatively high level of awareness because IPPs exist in those communities. Convincing communities without IPPs of the gravity of this legislation will be necessary to get enough support throughout the province to ask that the legislation be set aside.

In the meantime, Gimse suggests that people concerned about the changes to the Utility Act talk to their provincial elected officials, from MLA Joan McIntyre to the premier.

Asked if she thinks Bill 30 may foreshadow more instances of the province taking authority from municipal and regional government, Gimse is firm.

"Is this the thin edge of the wedge? Absolutely. I don’t want to speculate what it could mean."

The SLRD is also currently investigating any legal avenues it may have to have the legislation rescinded.