By Spencer Hall, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, RMG

While at the Union of BC Municipalities convention last month, Mayor Owen Torgerson met with Minister of Municipal Affairs Anne Kang and leader of the opposition, Kevin Falcon, to discuss the upcoming Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between Valemount, McBride, Clearwater, BarriÔ¨re, and Simpcw First Nation. 

He said news of the MOU was “met with glee” by everyone he spoke with, including Premier David Eby.

“He was elated to receive an invitation to come to the North Thompson for the ceremonial signing,” Torgerson said.

He added the Village also invited BC United leader Kevin Falcon and leader of the BC Greens, Sonia Furstenau, to the ceremonial signing, which Torgerson expects will be in May.

“This isn’t a partisan issue. This is to be celebrated. It likely will be historical and first of its kind,” Torgerson said, adding Indigenous Relations Minister Murray Rankin called the MOU “exactly what the province was looking for.”

According to Torgerson, the MOU highlights the ins and outs of how the communities will work together and includes everything from water and watershed conservation, landscape planning, heritage assets, cultural assets, and archaeological assets.

The mayor then met with Minister of Energy Josie Osbourne to discuss the possibility of running a second transmission line from the Mica Dam to create further energy redundancy in the North Thompson. Torgerson said the proposal was received, but deflected. 

He said during the meeting, there were alternative, cost-effective options proposed, such as Indigenous or municipal-led run of river projects to up the kilowatts and kilovolts in the existing powerline. Torgerson hopes to meet with BC Hydro before the end of the year to gain clarity on the crown corporations’s thoughts on transmission line improvements and energy redundancies.

Torgerson also met with Health Minister Adrian Dix, who he said was open to increasing the capacity of emergency departments in rural areas of BC with paramedics. During the meeting, Torgerson presented Dix with two scenarios: if an ER is fully staffed, paramedics would still be in the ER, so critical care nurses could focus on community health initiatives and engage with other community groups.

The second scenario presented was based on the reality facing rural emergency rooms and even larger centres like Merrit and Clearwater.

“To avoid diversions, you have two extra paramedics in the ER, assisting the critical care nurse until you either have a doctor arrive or you’re able to have a virtual session with the doctor to get a greater higher level of care on the go quicker so you have better patient outcomes,” Torgerson said.

In his meeting with Parliamentary Secretary of Forests, Doug Routely, and Shadow Minister Mike Bernier to discuss land planning. Torgerson said he informed the province that the region has forest stewardship and First Nations forest plans in place, adding forestry is one topic covered by the upcoming MOU.