Were mayors suppose to be invited to the transportation symposium?

Mayors say there was some confusion over whether they should've attended the event.

In the story ‘Finding transportation solutions for Hwy. 16’ published in the Lakes District News’ Oct. 21, 2015 issue, representatives from municipalities and First Nations communities along the Prince Rupert to Prince George Hwy. 16 corridor had been invited to a transportation symposium.

The purpose of the event – held in Smithers on Nov. 24 – was to engage communities in finding transportation solutions along the stretch of Hwy. 16 known as the highway of tears.

However, the invitation from the ministry of transportation and infrastructure left some mayors feeling confused over whether they should attend the event.

Vanderhoof Mayor Gerry Thiessen said a thread that came through his e-mail included an invitation for town staff, but not for him.

“No, I wasn’t invited,” he said. “The town staff was; the thread I saw was that they [the ministry] didn’t want elected people there, so I will not be attending.”

Smithers Mayor Taylor Bachrach agrees that there was some confusion regarding who should’ve attended the event.

“There was a fair bit of confusion with regard to whether elected officials were invited, and there were e-mails from the ministry indicating the event was meant for local government staff only,” he said.

Sonia Lowe, a ministry’s Spokesperson, explained that this year the ministry decided to broaden the conversation to include a more diverse group of participants, not solely focusing on leaders. She said the ministry heard it needed to engage more fully with administrators and community members, as well as representatives from local government. “They can bring their day-to-day experiences to the table and further the dialogue to identify the best solutions possible,” she said. “We are hopeful that this broader conversation with a more diverse group of participants will help us identify community-based solutions for safe, practical and sustainable transportation along the corridor.”

Lowe added that last year the ministry engaged in a number of face-to-face meetings with local mayors and First Nations chiefs along the Hwy. 16 corridor.

“We have also had very positive discussions with most of the mayors and several chiefs in the area and they have shared their support for the symposium and the work that we are trying to achieve,” she said.

Burns Lake Mayor Luke Strimbold said he was personally invited to the symposium by transportation minister Todd Stone. Strimbold said he would be the only one attending the event on behalf of the Village of Burns Lake.

The transportation symposium is a partnership between the ministry of transportation and infrastructure and the First Nations health authority.

Check upcoming issues of Lakes District News for more information.


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