Highlights of Day 2 at the annual Union of B.C. Municipalities convention in Vancouver.
— Good meeting with Kinder Morgan reps for an update on Trans Mountain expansion as it relates to Area P, specifically Black Pines. Community benefit pledge of $150,000 is still in place, as is federal-provincial infrastructure funding pending approval of water system upgrade at the local level. Details of construction schedule for the pipeline expansion should be firming up over the next several weeks.
— Attended a session on the new Water Sustainability Act and was able to ask about the situation at Heffley Lake, specifically with respect to the dam safety review as well as the lowering of lake levels. No specific answers but agreement to follow up with provincial authorities.
— Really interesting session during an Electoral Areas Directors Forum on driving economic development in rural areas. Marlene Morris of the Community Development Institute provided some historical background to the B.C. economy, describing what she called “The Long Boom.”
After the election of the W.A.C. Bennett government in the early 1950s there was a long period of economic development based on an integrated approach that combined building infrastructure with diversifying local economies.
Being a B.C. history wonk and the biographer of Phil Gaglardi, who was responsible for carrying out much of Bennett’s infrastructure plan, I was fascinated by Morris’ overview. The Long Boom extended well past Bennett’s regime into 1980, after which a focus on one-basket resource industries resulted in a “devastating” effect on rural economies, a loss of population in many areas, and economic stagnation.
It didn’t start to turn around until 2000.( I well remember asking M.J. Cousins of Venture Kamloops back then if she was confident the economy of the B.C. Interior was finally turning the corner, and she replied with an unequivocal “Yes!”)
Anyway, Morris went on to talk about the importance of niche markets, in which products of comparatively small reach nonetheless bring high value to the economy. The challenge, she said, is to identify them and promote them.
“Niche markets are fun and they’re very, very lucrative,” she said. She also, by the way, stressed the importance of seniors to local economies.
Presentations were followed with an open-mike session on such things as the Rural Dividend fund, rural roadside pathways, and abandoned railway rights of way.
Sessions on several topics ran concurrently in the afternoon, and I decided to attend one on the Water Sustainability Act as I’ve had some inquiries about it from Area P residents in recent months. The key thing here is that new fees and rules don’t apply to domestic groundwater.
Tomorrow, the most important part of the convention gets underway — resolutions from municipalities and regional districts.