It was a rare chance for the local government leaders who make up the Howe Sound Community Forum to meet in the middle.
On Sunday, Gambier Island hosted the meeting of the forum, which covered issues ranging from the Squamish Nation’s marine plan to the current state of health of the surrounding ocean.
The forum includes municipalities and regional districts from around Howe Sound, as well as the Squamish Nation and Islands Trust. West Vancouver-Sea-to-Sky MLA Jordan Sturdy and West Vancouver-Sunshine Coast-Sea-to-Sky MP Pam Goldsmith-Jones joined about 80 other participants, including Squamish Mayor Patricia Heintzman and Councillor Karen Elliott.
Ruth Simons, executive director of the Future of Howe Sound Society, helped coordinate the meeting and was pleased Goldsmith-Jones planned to talk about the Sound in Ottawa. “I do believe her voice will be taken to cabinet and Howe Sound will be heard of,” Simons said.
In fact, Goldsmith-Jones was able to offer some good news on the derelict vessels issue, telling the forum that federal Transportation Minister Marc Garneau had scheduled a May 2 teleconference for the Liberal caucus on dealing with derelicts.
Kate-Louise Stamford, an Islands Trustee for Gambier and one of the meeting’s hosts, pointed to the importance of having the Squamish Nation well represented.
“One of the challenges I think communities have on Howe Sound is we’re divided up with jurisdiction structures.… It’s such a complex area, geographically and politically, but they [the Squamish Nation] cover the whole of Howe Sound,” Stamford said.
That importance was acknowledged by using traditional Squamish names when referring to the various forum communities during the meeting.
Gambier residents have been on the front lines of a few recent concerns over activity in the Sound: a proposed gravel mine at McNab Creek and woodlot licences.
Stamford said those concerns came up, but her main focus was a presentation on assessing the cumulative effects of development in the Sound, something that’s been an outstanding issue for the forum and the Future of Howe Sound Society.
“One of the things that we’ve focused on traditionally has been the industrial expansion – the reindustrialization of Howe Sound – but at the same time, there’s other forms of development that are equally impactful,” she noted. “Residential development, recreational development, the impacts of the fixed-link study.”
Stamford cited 11,000-plus new residential units planned in the Sea to Sky Corridor as a prime example.
Simons said when it comes to the long-standing goals of completing a provincially funded cumulative impacts study and developing a comprehensive land use plan for Howe Sound, some important milestones could be met soon. “While it is very slow, they have made progress [on the cumulative impact study],” she said. “The next step will be a draft policy around how cumulative effects should be managed.… This year will actually see some results from that.”
“I think the intent is there,” Stamford said. “I’m not sure if we can move fast enough for the level of changes we can expect in this area.”