Things were a bit different for Houston council at the Union of BC Municipalities Convention this year.
Their meetings with provincial government took on a different style, instead of one-on-one meetings, council had fifteen minutes with Premier Christy Clarke and several ministers all together.
Asked why meetings were different then usual, Councillor Shane Brienen said they didn’t know.
“Almost everyone we talked to from the north was getting put into those,” he said, adding that there were benefits meeting everyone together, as council could get answers right away rather then waiting for the Premier and Ministers to correspond and get back to them.
Their meeting included (1) Premier Christy Clarke, (2) Steve Thomson, Minister of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations, (3) Shirley Bond, Minister of Jobs, Tourism and Skills Training and Minister Responsible for Labour, (4) Coralee Oakes, Minister of Community, Sport and Cultural Development, (5) Terry Lake, Minister of Health, and (6) MLA John Rustad.
One priority council had at UBCM was lobbying for funding for upcoming projects, particularly Houston’s deteriorating water reservoir.
Mayor Holmberg said that after the meeting, Shirley Bond asked that they send a draft budget of the water reservoir project.
She promised that “the least she’ll do is get it in front of the Finance Committee,” Holmberg said.
“It won’t happen tomorrow or anything… but it looks like we might get some provincial money.”
Another priority was to discuss forest policies and lobby for West Fraser timber rights to stay local.
Mayor Holmberg said the Competition Bureau will make recommendations, but he wonders what impact it will have anymore.
“The big thing for us is going to be the Morice River Timber Supply Review,” he said.
“It doesn’t sound like that’s coming out until the first quarter of next year.”
As far as lobbying for the timber rights from West Fraser, Holmberg says nothing will happen until the government decides how much timber they have for allotment.
“Maybe our fight to keep West Fraser volume here might be for naught… there might not be volume to fight over,” he said.
LNG projects was also discussed at UBCM, and Holmberg says there was a lot of information and different opinions about where projects are at.
He said there was also an idea of three-tiers of impact from LNG: The northeastern gas fields will have huge benefits, communities with LNG plants will benefit immensely, and who knows if or how communities en route – like Houston – will benefit.
“We were trying to drive home the fact that we need to focus on mines and forestry. Forestry is the industry that’s been the backbone of this province and will continue to be for quite a while,” Holmberg said.
Government seemed open to those ideas, he added.
As for mining, Councillor Michalle Jolly says things seemed fairly positive.
She noted two stats from the mining breakfast: B.C. accounts for more then 20 percent of mineral exploration in Canada, and since 2005, government has put $50 million into Geoscience BC.
“There’s a lot happening in mining,” Jolly said.