Merritt mayor Mike Goetz sits down with the Herald to talk about this year’s SILGA convention.

Every year in April, the Southern Interior Local Government Association (SILGA) delegates gather to debate resolutions, network and get educated on local government matters.

This year’s SILGA convention was hosted by the tournament capital of Canada, Kamloops, at the Coast Kamloops Hotel & Conference Centre.

The theme of this year’s SILGA convention was “Keep the Ball Rolling” which high- lighted themes such as housing, wildfires, substance use issues, and discussions around economic development after the pandemic has subsided.

“Wildfire was probably the number one breakout session,” said Goetz. “One of the concerns that was brought up last year was the fact that forestry wasn’t using the local knowledge, the First Nations knowledge, and so we had several work breakout sessions where what that would look like and how it would help and governments now realize that that is the way it can move, so we’re moving in that direction.”

“One of the concerns that I’ve had for a long time is the fact that our forest firefighting airplane fleet is old, it’s real old,” said Goetz. “(The current planes), they fly in, they do two drops, they gotta fly all the way back to Kamloops to get reloaded. You look at the newer ones that are fighting in California, they come in and they do 16 drops before they have to go back and be refueled, but they stagger each other, and their jet planes are no longer prop planes.”

Goetz described this SILGA as ‘more focused on TNRD and groups working together.’ “The takeaway that I got was we’re more aware of climate change and drought and wildfire, it’s a huge concern and everybody is behind it,” said Goetz.

“We’ve come to a decision to a certain degree, most of us, that the way that the province fights fires is not as good as it should be, a forest fire isn’t from nine to five, a forest fires 24 hours a day, so they need to be hit hardand hit fast and hit instantly,” said Goetz.

“We’re one of the first communities that have hired an emergency management coordinator full time, we have an operating (emergency operations centre) that’s ready to go at any moment, we have a very well trained (emergency support services), we have evacuation plans, all that is done,” continued Goetz. “And we’ve learned that from 2021, not to be caught flat footed ever again.”

Mayor Goetz also highlights Merritt’s resolution that the Union of B.C. Municipalities (UBCM) request the minister of mental health and addictions to create a workable dashboard which reports statistics of the impact of decriminalization has had on harm reduction, which was passed at SILGA.

Goetz has been trying to get a dashboard for over a year. “We actually took this to the minister last UBCM and she assured us that this dashboard, as she called it, was going to be activated by the time we left UBCM,” said Goetz. “She told every community that, and then three days later, she cancelled the whole thing.”

Mayor Goetz is proud to announce that Merritt will be hosting SILGA next year. “We’re looking at a fairly significant performing coming, we’re hoping for some really good solid resolutions that we can carry to UBCM, and the ability for people to come here and enjoy the community, bring their families, walk through, and then the idea gets planted in their brain ‘you know what, let’s go back to Merritt because we really enjoyed ourselves there,’” said Goetz.

“One thing that I’m looking forward to in my speech was the fact that we’re looking to have them come to a community that is in a rebuild, to see our new community, what it looks like, to see the strength of the people here,” said Goetz. “Nobody left this community, even people that had their houses destroyed, they found other places, and they’re rebuilding. So the resiliency of the people here and just some of the very cool stuff we have here.”