FACEBOOK PHOTO                                Councillor Chris Alemany speaks at UBCM about open burning smoke control regulations.

FACEBOOK PHOTO Councillor Chris Alemany speaks at UBCM about open burning smoke control regulations.

Floods, forests and fire at the UBCM

Alberni councillors push for provincial aid on multiple fronts

Port Alberni’s city councillors and mayor spent the week of Sept. 25-29 at the Union of BC Municipalities Convention in Vancouver, an opportunity for local governments throughout the province to come together and share their experiences.

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Alberni council was most vocal on Thursday, when Councillor Chris Alemany brought forward a motion asking delegates to support the province to enter into a 10-year contract with Coulson Aviation and the Martin Mars water bomber.

After much debate, cities across B.C. voted down the motion.

Alemany has written a report of his experience at UBCM, which is available to read at chrisalemany.ca.

City councillors also had a number of meetings with ministers, most notably Doug Donaldson, the Minister of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development. Conversation topics included the city’s Community Forest, as Councillor Jack McLeman presented his concerns about the need for more annual allowable cut, and concerns regarding slash burning and open burning.

According to Alemany’s report, three ministers (Forests, Environment, Jobs/Innovation) spoke supportively on addressing the health and air impacts of open burning, as well as ensuring that fibre is used in innovative ways.

“We’re certainly pleased about that,” said Mayor Mike Ruttan. “That’s the move we’ve been pushing the ministry to consider.”

Cutting down on slash burning, he explained, will make it less available for wildfires, and will also allow the city to look into the economic value of that slash.

Discussions also surrounded flash flooding and sea level rise.

“That’s a really big issue here,” said Ruttan, citing the flooding that occurred near the Somass River and Tsheshaht First Nation last November. “That flooding also has the potential to close the road out to Tofino.”

Although a meeting with Minister of Transportation Claire Trevena was not possible due to time restrictions, Ruttan said there are still concerns regarding Highway 4 improvements, safety around the Cathedral Grove area and further improvements to Johnston Road.

Council also had a meeting with a director from the Ministry of Finance to consider changing the tax structure so municipalities are able to change the amount of taxes that building owners pay if they don’t keep their buildings in good repair.

“We were looking for another tool in our arsenal to pursuade building owners to improve their buildings,” explained Ruttan.

This idea, according to Alemany, was shot down because, “the tax system is meant to be a neutral revenue device, it is not intended and it is bad policy to use it as an incentive or disincentive system.”

The director instead suggested things like facade improvement, which is one way that the city of Port Alberni is already a step ahead of some municipalities.

Overall, the UBCM convention was about representing the city of Port Alberni and figuring out ways that the city can make things happen.

“With a new government in power, there’s an option to press the reset button,” said Ruttan. “This government was certainly very earnest about wanting to listen to political leaders. We had good exposure.”

elena.rardon@albernivalleynews.com

 

FACEBOOK PHOTO                                Councillors Chris Alemany and Sharie Minions meet Premier John Horgan at UBCM.

FACEBOOK PHOTO Councillors Chris Alemany and Sharie Minions meet Premier John Horgan at UBCM.