The City of Port Alberni will ask the Union of B.C. Municipalities to pressure the provincial government for economic relief in areas impacted by wildfires. They also hope to push the idea of an alternate route out of the Alberni Valley during a meeting with the premier.
City council at its Sept. 11 meeting endorsed an emergency resolution asking for economic relief for commercial and industrial business sectors impacted by wildfires. The resolution asks the UBCM to “urge the province to administer immediate assistance and financial aid to the commercial and industrial business sectors that have been impacted by the wildfires and associated highway closures.”
The resolution also recommends that provincial government programs like Disaster Financial Assistance be expanded to acknowledge both the direct and indirect impacts of natural disasters “to ensure support of affected businesses during and following natural disasters.”
In an interview just as Highway 4 was reopening to two-way traffic for Labour Day weekend, Mayor Sharie Minions talked about the need for provincial help for businesses. “This has had a significant impact on our community. We often hear about the tourism businesses and how they have been hit, and they certainly have been,” she said. “On a different level we have companies like Catalyst who has had challenges to transportation during this, getting their supplies in and getting their manufactured goods out.”
The other issue city and regional district officials have discussed is a better alternate route out of the Alberni Valley. “We have a meeting with the premier (David Eby) at UBCM…and we have been on an ongoing basis been talking to our MLA, talking with the Ministry of Transportation about the alternative route,” Minions said.
“We have heard tentatively that there is a commitment to an alternative route study to be done. That would encompass not just looking at a second highway but looking at a secondary, ready-to-go emergency access road,” she said. Horne Lake and Comox Main are two of the routes to be examined, as well as the Bamfield-Lake Cowichan road that was used as a detour this summer.
“It’s not a firm commitment yet, that’s what we’re hearing from the province is that is likely to come in the very near future.”
The UBCM convention takes place Sept. 18–22 in Vancouver.