Cell service, roads and more at forum

Helmcken Falls in Wells Gray — anchor for a geopark? (tourism Wells Gray photo)

Helmcken Falls in Wells Gray — anchor for a geopark? (Tourism Wells Gray photo)

CLEARWATER — Is there hope for rural communities that don’t currently have good broadband or cell service?

That was one of the questions I had an opportunity to ask during an all-day Community to Community forum in Clearwater’s Dutch Lake Community Centre on Friday.

C2C forums bring together representatives from local and First Nations governments in the region to talk about issues of common interest. I attended along with several other Electoral Area directors, members of Clearwater and Barriere councils and Simpc First Nations representatives, as well as quite a few staff members.

TNRD vice chair Willow Macdonald chaired a packed agenda that started promptly at 9 a.m. and went into late afternoon. The first presentation was by Bert Braybrook, general manager of Telus for the Kamloops-Cariboo Region, who provided an update of what the company has been doing in the region the past year and some insight into what’s coming next.

It gave me a chance to ask some questions during his presentation and chat with him briefly afterward about services in Area P, where there are several dead zones.

Dutch Lake Community Centre.

Dutch Lake Community Centre.

He explained that an average cell site costs about half a million dollars to install, so there has to be a solid business case for new service. That makes it challenging for some of our small communities but Telus is constantly reviewing services, said Braybrook.

McLure received service upgrades over the past two years, and the potential for using a repeater station at Paul Lake was looked at but didn’t work out. And there’s fibre up to Sun Peaks — does that offer an opportunity for Heffley?

When a proposal is received for new service, it goes to a planning team for consideration, and an answer returned as to the possibilities. I know cell and broadband serve is a concern in several places in Area P and it’s worth putting applications together. It’s not a short-term process, of course, but let’s find out where things are at.

Paula Cousins of the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure gave an overview of progress on upgrades to the Yellowhead Highway. We’ll be following up shortly to talk about some issues in Area P.

Yellowhead Mining CEO Frank Wheatley described plans for an open-pit copper mine at Harper Creek that would be one of the largest in the country — it would start operations in 2018 if approvals are received.

Jim Anderson and Colin O’Leary of Venture Kamloops talked about a new labour market study that will drill down to numbers within communities to help with economic development strategies.

Kate Stebbings provided an update on Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain pipeline expansion project, and Miles Brun and Jennifer Houiellebecq talked about the Barriere to McBride Corridor marketing project and the potential for geo tourism in Wells Gray Park.

Geopark designation would provide international recognition of the geological significance of Wells Gray. They explained that Wells Gray is an anchor attraction but that a geo park area could extend as far south as Sun Peaks.

The forum wasn’t just about listening — representatives of the various local governments, including me, had an opportunity to speak about their own areas. Mayor John Harwood of Clearwater, Chief Rita Matthew of Simpcw First Nation, Mayor Virginia Smith of Barriere, Mayor Al Raine of Sun Peaks, Willow McDonald of Area B, Bill Kershaw of Area O, and Carol Schaffer of Area A were among those providing updates.

I like these kinds of meetings — they put faces to names, provide valuable information, and can lead to important results.

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