The New Normal

In the local government world, we are missing two very important annual conferences due to Covid-19. These conferences allow us to come together in camaraderie, learn from each other and return to our respective communities energized.

The first is the Association of the Kootenay Boundary Local Government Association annual AGM. The AKBLG was established in 1933 and represents the south-eastern portion of BC. I have been elected to this board for six years and we identify and illuminate issues that impact the economy, environment and social well-being of people in our area. We focus on advocacy to effect long-term solutions for issues that impact our region.

The second major opportunity that feels like it is leaving a significant gap this year is the Union of British Columbia Municipalities (UBCM) annual conference. In addition to the professional development week, the value of this conference is that we also have a unique opportunity to meet with Ministers on issues that impact our respective communities.

Last year we met with the Honourable Selina Robinson and BC Housing to celebrate the first purpose built rental complex being built in Fernie in twenty years, we were able to express concerns of the project cost and asked for additional funding to see those much needed units in our community in an affordable range.

I would very much like to take the opportunity to thank the Honourable Selina Robinson, the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing, and BC Housing for taking our meeting at UBCM. As a result, the province committed extra funding of 1.49 million dollars to ensure these units come onto the market to meet Fernie’s needs.

We took meetings to advocate for; ultrasound services for our Elk Valley Hospital, single use plastic options for local governments prior to federal legislation, we asked for immediate investment in safe pedestrian connectivity from West Fernie to Anderson Road, we asked that the Private Forest Managed Lands Act be brought in-line with Crown forest regulations, and we thanked Minister Beare for the continued commitment to the Resort Municipalities.

Through the RDEK we were able to advocate to the Honourable Minister Travena regarding the Kicking Horse Canyon Project that will require a closure of Highway 1 through Golden, many of us are concerned that the increase in traffic levels will create significant pressure on many of our communities.

I presented on a panel, ‘Tourism by Design: Planning for Resilient Communities’ where we were able to speak about diversifying economies and use real examples to show communities just starting on this path a few different approaches.

UBCM is a whirlwind of scheduled meetings, and one of my favourite events is with the Resort Municipality Collective, the resort mayors and city mangers spend an afternoon working together to support the Resort Municipality Initiative (RMI) with ministerial staff. The last hour of the meeting is a beautiful celebration of outstanding projects our colleagues have done with the RMI funding opportunity, seeing and celebrating pride of community is extremely rewarding.  

Both of the AKBLG and UBCM will proceed virtually, and I know that is the absolute best we all can do right now, but what we will miss by meeting in person is huge. As is always the case, the magic often happens in the hallways. Leaning into a conversation, following up on a point that was raised, talking strategy and success. It truly is a wonderful week.

It is wedding week for a large part of my university crew right now, and as one of my oldest and dearest friends was due to arrive earlier this week one of my daughters looked at me and asked if she could hug Auntie Rhonda when she arrived. Meeting her sadness with my own, I answered ‘I don’t know if Auntie Rhonda is ok with hugs. Let’s wait and see.’

The reality is, everything feels uncertain and it is ok to admit that. Waiting and seeing is our new normal.

The City of Fernie will continue to work together to respond to what comes next, continue to deliver core services and try to meet our community needs despite not knowing what the future holds. I am extremely proud of local governments across the province right now for navigating these uncertain waters. It is remarkable.