COLUMN: Summerland council meets with new government ministers

Council members participated in Union of B.C. Municipalities convention in Vancouver

The Union of B.C. Municipalities annual convention, held Sept 25 to 29 in Vancouver, was attended by the mayors and councillors from all the province’s 162 municipalities and 27 regional districts, as well as by the premier, provincial cabinet ministers and MLAs from the three parties in the legislature.

The convention is an important forum for dialogue between the local and provincial levels of government with numerous workshops, panel discussions, and resolutions.

Municipalities may also request one-on-one meetings with government ministers and their staff.

Summerland Council met with six of the new NDP government ministers. Each meeting was relaxed and cordial.

The mayor and all of us councillors participated in the discussions and our MLA, Dan Ashton, was there to support and assist us in any way.

Below is a summary of each meeting:

Lana Popham, Minister of Agriculture: We discussed the government’s plans for establishing agri-tech hubs around the province and why it makes sense to locate one in Summerland.

With the completion of a feasibility study undertaken by the Summerland Chamber of Commerce, the Ministry is now providing matching funds for a business plan for a new Summerland Agricultural Innovation Centre.

Michelle Mungall, Minister of Energy: We discussed opportunities for financial assistance for an integrated solar energy and battery storage project.

As one of only five municipalities in B.C. to own an electrical utility, coupled with 2,000 hours of annual sunshine, Summerland is ideally positioned to take advantage of the emerging clean-tech sector.

Selina Robinson, Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing: We discussed the need for provincial infrastructure funding to allow municipalities like Summerland to move forward with large infrastructure renewal projects. The minister appreciated we are putting in place an asset management plan to guide our prioritization of infrastructure projects. We also discussed ways we can encourage affordable housing in the community as we near completion of an affordable housing framework study.

Doug Donaldson, Minister of Forests, Lands, Natural Resources: We discussed the future of the Rural Dividend Fund, a government program that helps small, rural communities diversify their local economies.

We spoke about how the Fund has helped Summerland initiate projects for affordable housing, solar energy, way-finding signage, and an agri-tech innovation centre.

An application for the Giant’s Head Mountain Trail Project is currently under review.

Lisa Beare, Minister of Tourism: We met in support of the Kettle Valley Railway Society’s request for government funding for infrastructure upgrades, including reinforcements to the Trout Creek trestle.

We explained the economic and historic importance of the steam railway to the entire region, noting it’s the Okanagan’s single largest tourist attraction with about 30,000 riders a year.

Rob Fleming, Minister of Education: The minister assured us the temporary funding that kept Trout Creek Elementary School from closing would remain in place.

We spoke candidly about the economic and social impact schools have in small communities.

Council also spoke in support of School District 67’s request for funding for a new gym at Summerland Secondary School.

Doug Holmes is a Summerland councillor.

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