Getting people working key component of wildfire recovery: CRD chair

Provincial and federal governments urged to push projects forward

Cariboo Regional District chair Al Richmond says he went to the recent Union of BC Municipalities Convention to express concerns about wildfire recovery in the Cariboo-Chilcotin.

All of the ministers he spoke to were prepared to come to the Cariboo and have those discussions, he adds.

As the cities of Williams Lake and Quesnel and the District of 100 Mile House and the CRD received funding to hire recovery managers, he notes they will be collecting and collating information about the economic impact the wildfires have had on these communities.

“As we get on with hiring our recovery managers and a co-ordinator, we’ll get the needs assessment done, and it’s tentatively agreed the ministers will probably come up to the Cariboo in November.

“There’s no point in having a 15-minute meeting on recovery options and strategies for the Cariboo at UBCM. It’s going to take a day or half a day with each minister to talk about what we’re going to do.”

Richmond says those plans are being laid out right now, as the province is doing some work on recovery and the local governments are also doing their homework.

He adds there are a number of concerns regarding the recovery from the wildfires.

The economy is one thing, businesses is another and the long-term timber supply is another, he says.

“Opportunities to move projects forward that were put forward by local government throughout the Cariboo where some work has already been done [are important]. We’re trying to get the provincial government approve many of those projects so we can move ahead and get things done.

“I think it’s important for people to see there’s investment being made in the Cariboo and that we are moving forward.”

Richmond says the hospital project in Williams Lake would put a lot of people to work and bring a lot of money into the economy.

He adds it would be the same with the hospital project in Quesnel.

“We discovered the province didn’t act on a matching grant opportunity with the federal government to do a roofing project in Barkerville. It was $100,000 from the feds, which they would match for a provincial contribution of $100,000.

“They could start working in Barkerville and that would be happening now.”

While noting they are small projects, he says they would put people to work.

Richmond adds there are infrastructure projects that have been put forward and local governments would like to see them expedited to get people working.

A strategy for the recovery of tourism is very important, he says.

“The fires of 2010 have hurt our industry operators. The spill at Mount Polley in 2014 had a big impact and now the wildfires of 2017 really hurt.

“It seems every time we do a recovery and try to get going, we get hit with something else. We know those sectors need to be addressed.

“So, we’re hoping with the co-ordinators in place and working with everyone, we’ll be able to have a collective strategy put together and then work on them.”

While noting strategies will be different in the North Cariboo than they will be in the South Cariboo, Richmond says they will be similar in a lot of ways.

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