Mayor’s task force on economic recovery hears presentations; group calls for meetings to be public

The mayor’s task force geared at economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic met behind closed doors this week, with presentations made on impacts felt by various sectors.

Mayor Ken Christian said research was conducted by city councillors. Among others, Coun. Dale Bass was tasked with consulting with neighbourhoods and exploring impacts on media; Coun. Sadie Hunter is looking into impacts on secondary and post-secondary education; Coun. Denis Walsh was tasked with consulting business improvement associations; and Coun. Bill Sarai researched healthcare providers.

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“Everything from long-term care facilities, which are changing quite a bit, as well as practitioners like dental and optometrists, chiropractors, all the changes,” Christian said.

Details about what came out of that research, however, are scant and some are calling for increased transparency in the process.

Transition Kamloops has called for the meetings to be open to the public. Currently, the information is privy to a select group on the task force, which includes city council, as well as the local MLAs and MP and representation from the Thompson Nicola Regional District, Tk’emlups te Secwepemc, School District 73, Domtar, Rocky Mountaineer, BCLC and more. Involvement was by invite. Transition Kamloops, a group with the goal of transitioning society from fossil fuels to sustainable energy, wrote in a letter the process should be more open.

“Interested citizens should be able to join in the process of planning to rebuild our local economy after the pandemic,” Transition Kamloops wrote. “That begins with being able to see what’s being considered.”

Jennifer Ste. Marie of Transition Kamloops told KTW the group was invited to provide input but not have a seat at the table. She said the public should know what is being discussed in order to have buy-in.

“Also, if more people are able to contribute to the discussion, we’ll have a better collection of ideas, a broader range of ideas,” Ste. Marie said. “These are a pretty complex set of problems to deal with. It’s best if we get as much input as possible.”

Transition Kamloops provided to the task force a series of recommendations, requesting development of a more sustainable economy, increased connections between citizens and one that protects the environment and mitigates effects of climate change.

Some specific ideas include increasing local procurement, promoting staycations among residents, investing in additional staff to support sustainability, accelerating active transportation infrastructure, providing free transit, fast-tracking expansion and enhancement to parks and trails, creating pollinator meadows with native plants and accelerating tree-planting.

The mayor said a number of recommendations stemming from the meetings will go before council, with a final report later in the summer.

He said the structure of the task force was intentional. Unlike council committees, a mayor’s task force is not required to involve the public. The reason, he said, is to allow candid discussion.

“There are some elements of the discussion that’s proprietary, in terms of businesses and what they might be doing, in terms of closing, staying open, issues related to supply chain,” Christian said.

In addition, Christian said task force members were chosen specifically because of the various sectors they represent.

The task force will meet again next week and then in July.

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