Fires, emergency social services, pilot training and recreational cannabis taxation are some of the topics covered in resolutions the Cariboo Regional District is submitting to the 2019 North Central Local Government Association convention, May 7-10 in Williams Lake.
There are seven resolutions in total. They focus on lobbying higher levels of government for consistent access to Emergency Social Services resources; more small aircraft pilot training; increased funding for fire centres; a better provincial approach to fire-smarting transportation corridors; the provision of provincial resources to inspect and enforce provincial fire safety regulations; fair cannabis revenue sharing with local governments; and additional training programs for arena operators in light of increased ammonia regulations.
Speaking to some of the resolutions after Friday’s board meeting, chair Margo Wagner said during the 2017 wildfires and again in 2018 when residents of the CRD were evacuated, whether they went to Prince George, Kamloops or Kelowna there was not a consistency in the applications and actual services provided by the emergency social services groups.
“In the resolution we are asking the provincial government to take over the management of ESS so that will ensure when we are at a level three provincial state of emergency that allocation of resources is even no matter where the evacuees are going,” she said.
After the wildfires of 2017, it became apparent the provincial government needs to increase funding to the Cariboo Fire Centre, Wagner added.
“They are getting issues of people timing out and there isn’t enough staff. I’m hoping with the exponential cost of the 2017 and 2018 wildfires that the provincial government will see the benefit of increasing fire centre funding.”
As for fire mitigation on transportation corridors, Wagner said there’s an issue of debris being left behind when BC Hydro, Ministry of Transportation or Fortis crews do brush clearing.
“It ends up drying after the freshet where ditches may be filled with water and then it becomes a real fire hazard, especially if a cigarette is tossed out of a vehicle.”
Area G director Al Richmond, chairs a Union of BC Municipalities committee that is dealing with the Fire Services Act, which is being updated.
One issue that has been raised, he said, is that public assembly buildings in areas that do not have a fire department — which is the bulk of the Cariboo Regional District — do not receive public safety inspections with respect to fire safety.
“The previous government thought they should make that the responsibility of regional districts, but most regional districts have said that it is way too expensive,” Richmond said. “It takes eight hours to drive from one end of our regional district to another. To send someone to inspect a building, motel, community hotel, lodge or restaurant, would be an arduous task.”
Richmond said eventually the previous government said regional districts could do the fire safety inspection if they wanted, but it was not mandatory, however, now the Fire Commissioner feels there should be a provincial standard and regional districts should have to do the fire safety inspections.
“That has not sat well with most regional districts,” Richmond said. “It will be a huge amount of work and costly and there is not a methodology in place for managing it. Last June the Fire Commissioner told me they were going to come back and work with local governments and wanted to know our concerns.”
Richmond said he believes the Fire Commissioner is beginning to understand the “magnitude” of the task they are asking regional districts to do.
Area D Steve Forseth said he put forward the need for more small aircraft pilot training resolution after discussing the issue with local mayors during the Natural Resources Forum held in Prince George last month.
There is a shortage of pilots, training capacity is an issue for smaller airlines and the new federal aviation rule that sets a cap on how many hours a pilot can fly before having to time out are all impacting small airlines, Forseth said.
“Given the post-Greyhound era of no bus services in our region right now, the transportation option for people that don’t have vehicles is starting to become very very limited,” he added. “If we can’t find a way to ensure small airlines like Pacific Coastal or Central Mountain Air stay in the air, that’s going to hurt a lot of the rural communities in B.C. who are trying to rebuild their tourism industry from the 2017 and 2018 wildfires.”