Cariboo Regional District (CRD) chair Margo Wagner is happy the CRD’s resolutions about funding independent fire departments and the need for government investment in broadband and cellular services for rural and remote communities were endorsed at the Union of B.C. Municipalities Convention (UBCM).
Local government officials have been attending the convention virtually since Tuesday, Sept. 14.
The funding for independent fire services resolution requested UBCM to lobby the provincial government for specific legal and statutory measures designed to remove any legal or financial risk from local government for providing financial or other supports to independent fire services.
“There were no cons on it and it went through at 87.3 per cent in favour,” Wagner said.
When the CRD learned from its lawyer that in the view of the law even if the CRD were to give $1 in a grant to an independent fire department and an incident occurred that could be deemed the fire department’s fault, that $1 puts the CRD at risk of being sued because it is seen as funding, she explained.
“This has been a tough discussion around the board table constantly because a lot of us have independent fire departments. Currently their only form of funding is through membership from residents that live within the fire protection boundary.”
The only other method of receiving payment is if the BC Wildfire Service asks for a fire department’s assistance and the department bills BCWS so much an hour for manpower and equipment.
“A lot of them apply for small grants that are small in the big picture, but are huge for some of these small fire departments,” Wagner said, noting when the CRD made the decision to stop funding independent fire departments it was tough on some of the fire departments who had, up until then, requested funding annually.
Area B director Barb Bachmeier put forward the resolution calling on the UBCM to lobby the federal and provincial governments to directly invest in the ownership and development of the needed capital infrastructure to facilitate effective, efficient and cost effective broadband services in rural and remote communities where a private sector business case does not exist.
Because the resolution was already endorsed before it came up for voting, Wagner said no one from the CRD needed to speak to it and she wasn’t aware of the percentage of votes it received.