Elected leaders from Northern B.C. gathered in Prince George to discuss the environmental, social and economic well being of the north last week.
The North Central Local Government Association (NCLGA) hosted the event.
The NCLHA has 265 local government representatives under its banner, it says, spanning from One Hundred Mile House to the Yukon border, and from the Pacific Coast to the Alberta border.
“It’s basically 70 per cent of the province,” says Executive Director for the NCLGA, Oliver Ray.
The NCLGA confirmed that both mayors Jeannette Townsend from Valemount, and Loranne Martin from McBride, attended the event.
“We represent these governments in an advocacy sort of way for better highways and transportation, more medical clinics, better emergency services, etc.,” he says.
Though the NCLGA hosts an Annual General Meeting, this was the first time the non-profit brought community leaders together (outside of the AGM) in its 62 years, Ray says.
“The pace of change is so rapid right now in Northern B.C. with resource development, legislative change and court decisions,” says Ray.
“We wanted to get leaders of each community in the same room and hash out recent developments,” he says.
Eighty-per cent of provincial exports come from Northern B.C., according to the NCLGA, and 80 per cent of agricultural land is also in Northern B.C.
The north is home to 60 per cent of B.C.’s indigenous population, too, most of who live on reserves, which also impacts local governments, the NCLGA says.
The takeaways from the meeting, according to Ray, came down to two refrains.
The first was that Northern B.C. communities are unique, in that it is sort of one large community.
“We’re a community of communities, if you will,” says Ray.
The second takeaway was that there is strength in numbers, and strength in being one unified voice.
For example, Ray says going forward, rather than Valemount having to fight its own battles, which it does very well, other communities can kind of have Valemount’s back, and vise versa.
“Sometimes it’s hard for a mayor, and a council with four members, to make an impact,” he says. “But we can all speak together, 70 per cent of the province.”
Neither Valemount nor McBride’s administration provided comment by press time when asked if they attended, what was discussed, or what takeaways could be applied to the Robson Valley.
The AGM switches from community to community every year, however, typically about 400 people attend, Ray says.
The high volume of participants limits the NCLGA in where they can have the event, according to Ray, so the event has never been hosted in the Robson Valley due to