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UBCM asked to pressure province to review Site C lands

The Peace River Regional District has already called out the province of British Columbia once for not allowing the Agricultural Lands Commission to review the removal of 5,340 hectares of land from the Agriculture Land Reserve for use as the Site C
Some of the 5,340 hectares of land along the Peace River that has been removed from the Agricultural Land Reserve for the Site C dam reservoir.

The Peace River Regional District has already called out the province of British Columbia once for not allowing the Agricultural Lands Commission to review the removal of 5,340 hectares of land from the Agriculture Land Reserve for use as the Site C dam reservoir.

Now, it will be asking local governments across the province to do the same.

PRRD representatives will ask delegates at this week's Union of B.C. Municipalities meeting  to pressure the provincial government to rescind the exclusion of the land until “adequate public input and respect is shown for the legal requirements,” necessary for the removal of lands from the ALR.

The lands to be flooded represent the largest land exclusion in the 43-year history of the ALR.

In a June 2015 letter to Energy and Mines Minister Bill Bennett, PRRD chair Lori Ackerman pointed out that “the province was clearly directing the Agricultural Land Commission that there was no need for them to be involved, even as the process had barely begun. The province was ensuring that they would remove any legal road blocks instead of allowing the Joint Review Panel to conduct the hearing in an unbiased manner.”

The decision to exclude the land from the ALR was approved by Premier Christy Clark’s cabinet on April 8 by order in council. This type of legislation allows the provincial cabinet to make certain executive actions without legislative approval.

In April 2015, the regional district condemned the decision.

Rural area director Karen Goodings said the decision was "done quietly and with no discussion." Goodings said the region isn't even clear on how much land will be impacted.

The regional district also asked government to hit the brakes on Site C in July, voting to ask the province to suspend the permits that are currently allowing work on the dam to proceed until all legal challenges against the dam have concluded.

“You don’t dig the basement until you know you can complete the house,” Goodings told Alaska Highway News. 

“We’ve said all along that we feel due process has not been followed through this whole process,” she added. “Instead of going through the process that is set out by government … they make exceptions to the rule and in this case that is what they’ve done.”

The PRRD’s resolution is backed by the North Central Local Government Association.

A committee struck to review resolutions put forward at the UBCM convention gave no recommendation to either endorse or not endorse the PRRD's resolution, leaving room for debate on the convention floor.

The committee did note that members had considered—but did not endorse—a resolution that sought to simplify the procedure and expedite local government applications for removal of lands from the ALR in 2013.

In the past, members have also expressed support for retaining the ALR despite its "lack of resources."

According to BC Hydro, the Site C reservoir will run 83 kilometres and more than double the width of the river in some places. Some 81 percent of the area flooded would be Crown land, while 12 per cent belongs to BC Hydro. Seven per cent is privately owned.

The ALR was created by the province's first NDP government in 1973 as a means of protecting farmland against development.


City of Victoria wants BCUC review of Site C dam

The City of Victoria wants the UBCM members to back its resolution that the Site C dam undergo a review from the British Columbia Utilities Commission.

The District of Hudson’s Hope and the Peace River Regional District have also requested a “proper review of the project” from the province before current construction and development is allowed to proceed.

The resolution argues the dam has “raised issues including the potential impact on BC Hydro ratepayers and provincial taxpayers, as well as the potential impacts on agricultural, environmental, aboriginal and municipal interests.”

UBCM’s resolutions committee has recommended the motion be endorsed, noting that members have consistently favoured resolutions supporting a “full and robust role for the BC Utilities Commission in the oversight of all power projects undertaken in B.C.”

In a separate resolution put forward by the District of Hudson’s Hope, UBCM members are asked to request the province “follow the recommendations of its Joint Review Panel and refer the Site C project to the BC Utilities Commission for review of the need for, cost of, and alternatives to this project.”


Hudson’s Hope wants access to renewables made easier

The District of Hudson’s Hope wants easier access to renewable energy for new building projects.

The town has put forward a resolution to UBCM delegates to push the province to offer incentives to residential customers who install technologies that make it easier to convert to renewable energy sources such as solar and wind.

Leaders in Hudson’s Hope say there is a need to offset expected future increases in electricity demands with renewable technologies such as small scale wind and solar, which are becoming increasingly affordable for households.

In 2009, the UBCM endorsed resolutions that allow the province to “encourage new construction to be pre-plumbed and pre-wired for further solar panels or other alternative energy installations.”

In response, the province indicated it had been working to introduce regulations under the BC Building Code that would allow local governments to make pre-wiring a single-family home to be solar-ready a requirement.


Should fines for failing to stop for a school bus be increased?

Lastly, the City of Fort St. John is asking municipal leaders to consider asking the province to conduct a review of its fines for failing to stop for a school bus.

The city’s resolution suggests a progressive system of fines and stiffer penalties for infractions.

Fines are currently set at $167 and come with three demerit points on one's licence.

The resolution comes on the heels of “increased reports of drivers failing to stop for school buses,” according to the resolution.

Fort St. John RCMP issued a warning to motorists this month after a driver clipped a boy and his mother crossing the street near Duncan Cran Elementary.

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