Two issues that are very important to Electoral Area P will be up for discussion during next week’s annual meeting of the Union of B.C. Municipalities in Vancouver.
I learned today (Sept. 20, 2017) that both my requests for meetings with cabinet ministers have been accepted by the government. One is on the issue of rural cellphone service; the other is on access to gas-tax funding for not-for-profit strata corporations and not-for-profit private utilities.
The meeting on cellphone service will be with Minister of Citizens’ Services Jinny Sims, at which I’ll outline the importance of expanding cellphone service to rural areas including Heffley Lake and Pinantan Lake.
As I’ve said many times before, cell service isn’t just a convenience; it’s a necessary safety measure for rural communities. The Heffley Lake Community Association has been doing an outstanding job in attempting to get cell service for the valley. As well, the Pinantan community, especially the fire brigade, emphasizes the importance of cell service in rural fire protection.
The gas-tax issue around stratas and private utilities run by societies is one I’ve been fighting for more than two years in co-operation with the Rivershore strata council and MP Cathy McLeod. Director Ronaye Elliott of Area J is also in support.
Obtaining a clear interpretation of the federal government’s intentions finally came this past spring, and the answer wasn’t the one we wanted.
However, I’m absolutely convinced that not-for-profit stratas and private utilities should be granted access to gas tax funding for important upgrades and repairs in the same way that TNRD utility service areas are. They all serve communities and deserve support.
There are two possible ways of achieving this: a new (and, in my view, proper) interpretation of existing criteria, or changes to the criteria. The latter is the approach I’m taking at the UBCM in asking the convention to support a request to the feds for changes.
I expect some lively debate at the convention, but here’s hoping.