Council reported on what they did at the UBCM convention at their regular council meeting.
The five-day convention held late September saw municipal representatives gather to attend workshops, talks and tours among other activities. Mayor Shane Brienen believes there are two major takeaways from the UBCM convention.
“I think one of the biggest issues for Houston for sure is health and it’s just an ongoing one,” Mayor Shane Brienen said. “The other big takeaway would be the revenue sharing benefits alliance and those talks are underway.”
He said the alliance is pushing to keep a portion of the revenue from the local resource economy so that municipalities can build a more attractive Northwest.
“I think with the Northwest, we’re projected to grow a little bit if some of the natural gas stuff takes off,” he said. “It’s really hard to get our communities into shape where we can get some of those people to move here or live here and it comes down to that infrastructure spending.”
“I think that’s what the revenue sharing alliance is about at the end of the day, is that as these royalties come out from the North, billions and billions pour into the North, that we have some way that we can keep some percentage of those royalties.”
Mayor Brienen also wants the government to provide more health care services. He hopes Houston gets 24-hour health care and would like four to six doctors serving the community.
“I think a big reason there is that we’re such an industrial community. We’ve running around-the-clock. The mill runs at night, the bush runs at night, the mine runs at night,” Mayor Brienen said. “It’s easy to say we’re 45 minutes from Smithers, that changes in the winter time and if you’re already 100 kilometres out in the backroads there… that’s a long way to the hospital.”
Mayor Brienen said to council that he met with the Minister of Health and he believes Houston is on the right path, but he said he has “a hard time” with the Ministry sometimes because they aren’t offering a fair level of service for the tax dollars Houston generates.
Mayor Brienen met with the Ministry of Forests, Lands & Natural Resource Operations, but he said he did not get many answers from them.
Coun. Potvin and John Siebenga attended the Moving Forward with First Nations workshop.
“It was mostly about rights and title that they went through, and the second half was moving forward through partnerships and they talked about reconciliation [in] Canada,” Coun. Potvin said. “They did talk about economic development and that it’s the clearest path to reconciliation.”
“I know that Houston does not have reserves or bands, but I think that this is incredibly important with the LNGs coming through and establishing a solid relationship with the First Nations in our area, and I kind of want to see some conversations take place from that locally.”
Coun. Potvin also attended another workshop on medicinal marijuana legislation. Coun. Potvin said she has been to one three years ago and attendees were divided on the issue, but she noticed a marked increase in support for it this time.
Coun. Jonathan Van Barneveld was away from council on personal matters and therefore did not present his report, while Coun. Rick Lundrigan did not attend the convention.