By Steve Hubrecht 

[email protected]

The annual Union of British Columbia Municipalities (UBCM) convention isn’t until mid-September, but Invermere councillors and staff are already planning what issues to lobby for and discuss with provincial ministers.

This year Invermere officials hope to meet with BC Hydro to talk about improving power supply and distribution in Invermere, and about BC Hydro’s role in new developments. They also want to touch base with the B.C. Ministry of Municipal Affairs about additional support for replacing and upgrading municipal infrastructure; and with provincial officials about leasing the former provincial highways maintenance yard in Athalmer to the district and the BC Wildfire Service so that it can be used as a base of operations by fire crews and for future development as industrial park space by the district.

Local officials will also try to meet with the B.C. Ministry of Tourism, Arts, Culture and Sport to persuade the ministry to include infrastructure projects on the list of what Resort Municipality Initiative (RMI) funding can be spent on. Invermere council and staff noted that high tourism levels (such as those experienced by Invermere) put increased pressure on municipal infrastructure.

Other planned meetings include one with fisheries and aquaculture officials about ongoing funding help to replace existing culverts and bridges (Invermere diverted a substantial part of its 2023 paving budget to pay for the new Abel Creek culvert) as well as more funding for the Lake Windermere Ambassadors (LWA); and with the B.C. Ministry of Environment and Climate Change Strategy to update ministry officials on efforts to transfer control over James Chabot Provincial Park from the province to the District of Invermere and Shuswap Band. 

Invermere officials also hope to meet with Interior Health and the B.C. Ministry of Health to advocate for more hospital staff and for new or upgraded equipment for the Invermere hospital — in particular the hospital’s need for CT scan equipment.

Invermere has lobbied on several of these issues at past UBCM meetings, and when the matter came up during last week’s council meeting, Mayor Al Miller expressed some polite frustration saying “some of these things we’ve been advocating for so long now.” 

He likened the meetings with ministers at UBCM to speed dating, pointing out that each meeting lasts 15 minutes at most and said that “when people say government operates slowly, they have good reason . . . there’s a few of these things that have not got done yet, that I really thought we’d have finished by now.”

Miller later attributed that sentiment more specifically to the transfer of James Chabot Provincial Park and to the highways maintenance yard in Athalmer, both of which Invermere has been working on for years. Still, Miller said he’s optimistic they will both eventually be resolved, telling the Pioneer “I’m a positive guy, so I’m hopeful.” He added that the delay on James Chabot Provincial Park is likely due at least in part because the Ministry of Environment and Climate Change Strategy “needs time to make sure everyone – all parties — are properly consulted.”

Invermere councillor Gerry Taft suggested adding a meeting about housing to the list, saying he feels it is “worth being the squeaky wheel on this issue.”