Regional District of Central Kootenay directors lobbied the provincial government on three major issues at the recent Union of BC Municipalities convention in Vancouver: flood protection, broadband connectivity and legislation concerning small water systems.
“The RDCK board met with provincial ministers to request action on these rural matters,” board chair John Kettle said in a news release. “I believe the board drove home to the ministers the importance these issues have in areas outside the Lower Mainland. The board wanted to make sure the voice of rural BC was heard loud and clear. We were concise and to the point and I firmly believe ministry staff and the ministers went away from our meetings knowing our commitment and engagement to issues we face daily.”
Given the number of flood and debris-flow events over the past few years in the RDCK, the board asked the province to assume more responsibility for flood mitigation on Crown land within regional districts. Pre-emptive flood protection funding and cooperation to assist regional districts was also requested.
“Floods and slides have had devastating, and even loss-of-life consequences in our district. We want protection for our residents and to do that, we need the province’s engagement,” said Kettle. “It is counter to responsible governance not to try to fix in a proactive manner those issues in waterways that could result in loss of life, limb and property. The RDCK stands shoulder-to-shoulder with the Province ready to play our governance role in protecting those folks facing eminent danger.”
Water was also the subject of the board’s meeting with the Ministry of Health; the RDCK wants the province to identify reasonable and affordable options to ensure that water is potable and safe for rural residents. Currently, the province’s drinking water protection act and regulations makes it technically and financially challenging for small water systems to comply with the legislation, Kettle said.
“The RDCK has spent considerable time and effort to seek some resolution to the challenges faced by these small water systems, not only for those currently operated by the RDCK, but also those who wish to become RDCK services,” said Kettle. “Health directives issued to users without any consideration for sustainable funding is counter-productive. Any order other than a single barrier treatment regimen or directive issued by a health authority must come with the applicable Provincial funding to be effective unless issued in times of dire emergency.”
The RDCK also requested that the Province support the efforts of the Columbia Basin Regional Broadband Committee to build networks that would enable rural residents to connect to the global community.
“Broadband service would enable people n rural areas to establish web-based businesses,” said Kettle. “This could really revitalize our communities.”
Representatives from the Columbia Basin Broadband Corporation will attend the October 17 RDCK board meeting to talk about its initiative to expand connectivity in the basin.
In addition to their meetings with ministers, RDCK Directors also attended workshops on wildfire protection, transit, emergency services, and local food networks.
The board was also present for the Province’s announcement that the RDCK has been authorized to implement a bylaw adjudication program.
“This system will give save our taxpayers money and make it easier for us to enforce our bylaws,” said Kettle. “It was the best UBCM convention I’ve been to,” said Kettle. “The board represented our region and its residents strongly. I’m confident we can make a difference.”