By: Spencer Hall, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Rocky Mountain Goat News.
Valemount mayor Owen Torgerson and some members of council are in Vancouver this week for this year’s Union of BC Municipalities convention.
The annual event allows municipalities to meet with provincial ministers and members of the official opposition to discuss local issues and pitch ideas. It also allows local governments to network with other municipalities while taking in a variety of workshops.
Torgerson said he has meetings scheduled with Municipal Affairs Minister Anne Kang, Energy Minister Josie Osbourne, Health Minister Adrian Dix, Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth, and Parliamentary Secretary of Forests Doug Routley. He will also be meeting with leader of the opposition Kevin Falcon and several shadow ministers.
“When you meet with ministers, you get 15 minutes to really flesh out a concern and issue an opportunity,” Torgerson explained, adding it’s typically best to have a solution for the Minister to consider. He likened the short meetings with ministers to speed dating.
In his meeting with Minister Kang, Torgerson said he wants to extend an invitation to Premier David Eby to witness the signing of a “historic” memorandum of understanding (MOU) between the village of Valemount, the village of McBride, the district of Clearwater, and Simpcw First Nation. He will also be discussing the MOU with Kevin Falcon.
According to Torgerson, the MOU lays down the framework for how the communities will communicate and work together moving forward.
“It highlights the ins and outs of how we’re generally going to be working together—everything from water and watershed conservation, landscape planning, heritage assets, cultural assets, and archaeological assets,” Torgerson told The Goat.
When he meets with the energy minister and BC United shadow ministers Tom Shypitka and Lorne Doerkson, Torgerson said he’ll pitch the possibility of running a second transmission line from the Mica Dam to the North Thompson region.
“With BC Hydro’s new call for power, it really opens up the North Thompson run of river projects potential because the existing transmission line between here and Brocklehurst is already at capacity already,” Torgerson said.
He added with more reliable power, the village may see more success attracting light industries requiring a reliable source of electricity to operate, which he said would benefit both the North Thompson region and the rest of the province.
The mayor will also present two case studies on rural paramedics supporting rural emergency room staff at both smaller hospitals and diagnostic and treatment centers to the minister of health and Northern Health CEO, Ciro Panessa.
Torgerson pointed out that having paramedics assist the emergency room could give nurses time to conduct community engagement and health initiatives.
“If we’re short in the ER for whatever reason, those paramedics supporting the ER are already there and able to assist where needed,” Torgerson said.
He added that if the paramedics are also fully staffed and get called out to another incident, a second car could come to relieve them.
Torgerson will also meet with Parliamentary Secretary of Forests Doug Routley and shadow minister of Forests Mike Bernier to discuss landscape planning and working collaboratively with surrounding communities and First Nations.
Also on the agenda is a meeting with the minister of public safety and the shadow minister of transportation regarding vehicle infraction enforcement on Highways 5 and 16 for drivers ticketed in Valemount who live elsewhere and don’t pay their fines.
After engaging with RCMP, Torgerson learned 58 percent of highway vehicle infractions are committed by drivers who reside out of province. He claims there is no way through current legislation to recoup those costs.
“If a driver is not impacted by their pocketbook, a point system, or any sort of other hit to their driver’s license or insurance, the odds of them repeating that same infraction remains high, so we want to address that with the minister,” Torgerson said.
The 2023 UBCM Conference kicked off in Vancouver on Sept 18th and is set to wrap up on Sept 22nd.