Kamloops council has meetings scheduled with multiple provincial ministers at the 120th Union of B.C. Municipalities (UBCM) convention in Vancouver this week.
The convention began on Monday, Sept. 18 and will run until Friday, Sept. 22, with numerous clinics, talks and workshops to take in. All members of council, with the exception of Nancy Bepple, are at the convention. Acting city chief administrative officer Byron McCorkell is also there.
Council has eight meetings with provincial ministers spread between Wednesday and Friday. Council will speak with Housing Minister Ravi Kahlon, Attorney General Niki Sharma, Indigenous Relations Deputy Minister Tom Rankin, Emergency Management Minister Bowinn Ma, Health Minister Adrian Dix, Tourism Minister Lana Popham, Solicitor General Mike Farnsworth and Municipal Affairs Minister Anne Kang.
Meetings with Ma, Kahlon, Rankin and Sharma will be held on Wednesday. Meetings with Farnworth, Popham and Dix will be held on Thursday. The meeting with Kang will take place on Friday.
Coun. Bill Sarai told KTW council wants to discuss with Kahlon housing for complex care sites, homeless encampment action response programs and a number of other housing initiatives.
With Farnworth, council intends to follow up on matters of peace officer status for its community services officers (CSOs) and community policing, which they discussed in the spring when the minister visited Kamloops Bestowing peace officer status upon CSOs gives them additional authority and responsibility under Canada’s criminal code.
Council will discuss with Dix the proposed, and long-promised, full cancer centre at Royal Inland Hospital. To date, Dix has said a concept plan for a complete cancer care centre has been included in the province’s capital budget.
“We’d like some more details of timelines and how we can assist in this process,” Sarai said.
Sarai said council wants to discuss with Popham the city’s Build Kamloops initiative to construct a performing-arts centre alongside numerous sports facilities through a mass borrowing campaign.
“An election’s coming up. This would be a perfect time to support all the initiatives that are under her ministry, which we are pushing forward under Build Kamloops,” Sarai said.
Coun. Dale Bass said there will be questions regarding any potential funding for Build Kamloops from the government.
With Ma, council wishes to discuss burnout amongst volunteers in Kamloops, which serves as a evacuation hub during wildfire and flood seasons. Sarai said the province needs to incentives volunteers to serve year after year.
“We need support from the province to ensure we have adequate resources available,” Sarai said. “It can’t be a volunteer position any more.”
Sarai said the city wants to hear an update from Sharma about a potential community court the municipality has been aiming to have established.
“Vancouver’s got one, so does Kelowna,” Sarai said.
Community courts, also known as integrated courts, seek to reduce crime and improve public safety by uniting health and social services with the justice system to address the causes of criminal behaviour. It is not a trial court, but eligible people may have bail hearings or plead guilty and be sentenced there.
With Rankin, council wants to discuss how the province can support the city with reconciliation efforts with Indigenous peoples.
As for Kang, council intends to discuss what her ministry can do to assist them when it comes to changes and resources needed for effective governance.
Bass, an incumbent councillor, said she is not as optimistic for the upcoming minister meetings as some of the new council members may be as she has gone through these sessions before.
“I know that in 15 minutes, you’re going to get platitudes at best and maybe a promise to get back to you,” Bass said, noting one example that took nine months before a reply was received. She said it will be good for the five new members of council to see how interactions play out between municipal and provincial governments at such conventions.
The minister meetings will be 15 minutes long and the topics of conversation will be introduced by Kamloops Mayor Reid Hamer-Jackson.
“We can’t go in unorganized. We only get 15 minutes. The first five are introductions and then the clock ticks,” Sarai said. “You’ve got to make your point quickly and get their attention of why you’re there, what you’re asking from them and how quickly you want an answer back.”
Hamer-Jackson, who is taking in his first UBCM convention, said he spent the first day on an all-day agriculture study tour. He said he was the only member of council to take the tour and chose to do so as he feels agriculture and food security are important issues for Kamloops at the moment, given the impending decommissioning of the Noble Creek Irrigation System in Westsyde.
Hamer-Jackson said he hopes to learn as much as he can during the five-day conference.
Meanwhile Bass and Sarai took in a session discussing the implementation of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP), which is a legally non-binding resolution. Other city representatives, including Coun. Mike O’Reilly and McCorkell, took in a session discussing decriminalizing illicit drugs and public use, a session hosted by provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry, who told the assembled politicians and municipal staff that the problem of addiction is not one that can be solved by arrests or treatment alone.
As for UBCM resolutions, Bass said Kamloops is not sponsoring any in 2023, but has put forward two letters of support for others — one calling on the province to reimburse local governments for medical services provided by municipal fire rescue services and another supporting expanding the province’s $10-per day child care program.