Friday, May 26, 2023

City Council provides review of North Central Local Government Convention of earlier this month, other Council travel adventures

How Council members spent their Spring Convention was the theme for the latter stages of Tuesday's Prince Rupert City Council session.

With some of the City Council members that attended the North Central Local Government Association AGM and Convention in Dawson Creek earlier this month providing a review of some of their time in the Peace Country. 

Councillor Barry Cunningham led off the review, he having arrived a day prior to the rest of the Prince Rupert delegation to take part in Northern health discussions, his account of the topics making note of some of his past concerns on health care in Prince Rupert and the need to continue to advocate for services locally.

From the first day, the City councillor outlined a suggestion he offered up to Northern Health and UNBC in Prince George and its northern campus locations  to work towards filling staffing positions across the north.

"If students are coming from down south to take nursing courses or anything like that, they should be required to spend at least two or three years the North after they get their degree because they are taking seats from residents up north. 

Ontario already has something like that in effect. So it would help with the number of nurses graduating actually staying in the North.

In the second day of the conference, Mr. Cunningham had opportunity to speak with Northern Health officials on the topic of hospital replacements, noting that Prince Rupert has now dropped to fourth in the listings for the Northwest.

"My concern was the replacement of our Prince Rupert Regional Hospital.  Mills Memorial is number one, Bulkley Valley which is Smithers definitely has to be replaced, it's an old wood frame and it's in pathetic shape.

We, I understood through the last four years were going to be the third replacement hospital. We've now been pushed down to fourth and Wrinch, out of Hazelton has bumped up to number three.

Mr. Cunningham further  outlined how he believed Prince Rupert could rise on the Northern Health list, that related to local issues at Prince Rupert Regional Hospital.

"In the list of how they actually categorize the hospitals I think there is still movement for us.  There's some definite issues at our hospital that they're trying to address, like water purification and things like this.

But it's the pipes in the walls and things like that  that are going to be the problem. So even after they put in the water purification system, they're going to have to now test the water again because the water had lead in it before, you couldn't drink it. 

And they were flushing the system constantly and things like this and if that still exists that will give us enough points to jump up" 

He also noted how Prince Rupert was the oldest of the four, as well as the winter travel conditions that impact on health care in the region.

Another topic of concern was recruitment for Mills Memorial Hospital and how it could impact on Prince Rupert.

"We were told that they were going to recruit from outside of Northern Health but I'll believe that when I see it. Because you know, you can't stop a nurse or a doctor from leaving our hospital to go to another hospital and I don't think Northern Health will discourage anyone from doing that. So it's something that we're going to have to keep an eye on and we're still going to have to really push to have our hospital replaced on the future"

Councillor Teri Forster, who is a nurse in the community, observed as to some of the advantages that Prince Rupert has towards recruiting and retaining medical personnel in the community.

"It came up at NCLGA was people doing a lot of push for recruitment, which alienates the people that are currently here. 

So part of how we're going to make sure that people aren't leaving to go to a new hospital is reminding them how great we are as neighbours to each other and all the benefits to living in our community.

Terrace might have a new hospital but they don't have all of us. So please thank a nurse or a health care worker because we don't need them leaving"

Towards some future travel, Councillor Skelton-Morven observed that he, Councillor Forster and some members of the team are in attendance at the Federation of Canadian Municipalities Conference and Trade Show in Toronto this week.

Mr. Pond expanded on Councillor Skelton-Morven's notes on the upcoming travel.

"With that, I'll just point out that Councillors Forster and Skelton-Morven are travelling to FCM in Toronto to represent the City, along with Dr. Buchan and we appreciate them doing that on our behalf" 

Mayor Herb Pond also recounted some of the themes of the Peace Country event, noting of his attendance along with Councillors Forster, Cunningham and Doctor Buchan.

"Having been absent for some time and coming back into local government, one of my purposes was to go and see whether NCLGA was still relevant to what we're doing. 

And I think others went with the same viewpoint. And I think all of us concluded, well I know all of us concluded because we had the discussion, that it is worthwhile.

There's probably some things we can do to make it even more worthwhile, but I think gathering with similar municipalities, similar size, similar issues very, very worthwhile 

The Mayor also observed how delegates to the annual event are anxious to see Prince Rupert host an NCLGA convention in the near future.

"One of the things that overwhelmed us almost, was almost to a delegate they want us to host, we had to beat them off because they actually wanted  us to host next year.

There's two drivers that I heard  from that one, they just like coming to Rupert they want to do the seafood thing and all that sort of stuff. 

But they also are people from communities whose products are moving through our port, whether that's grain, or energy, or whatever. And they've heard a great deal about what's going on, on the ground here and they want to see it first hand"

The Mayor noted that the city declined the opportunity to host in 2024 owing to staffing workload at the moment, but that some consideration could be given to a host role for NCLGA in 2025.

Councillor Cunningham observed an upcoming session that he has with the organization and how they are already looking to see a letter from the city towards the hosting opportunity.

Mr. Pond  also noted of a series of meetings that he has had with the Premier since January.

"I had an opportunity to meet with Premier Eby, Doctor Buchan and I attended a meeting in Victoria while we were at NCLGA we got word that we had a meeting so my travel was detoured down to Victoria.

And this was a follow up meeting, to the meeting that we had had earlier with the Premier  and so a chance to update him and I won't go into all the details of that. 

But suffice to say that it's actually the seventh meeting I've had face to face with the Premier since the beginning of the year. 

And this is all about continuing to pursue long term sustainable funding that will allow us to do things we need to do to support the industries that want to make their home here. 

And allow us to be the kind of community where people actually want to come and  live. Whether that's as simple as water pipes and new roads or expanded recreation facilities or trails as we heard earlier this evening"

The Mayor also offered up a short update on the work of the Regional Benefits Alliance and their ongoing work towards gaining a revenue stream from the Province related to local industry and resource development.

You can review the Council travelogue through the City's video archive starting at the one hour, fifteen minute mark.

More notes related to Tuesday's Council session can be reviewed here.

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