Cities vote to reject pipeline, ambulance changes

Lower Mainland delegates also pass motions on medical marijuana, coal export terminals

Lower Mainland cities have registered their concern over slower ambulance response times for many 911 calls.

Lower Mainland civic politicians voted last week to oppose the Kinder Morgan oil pipeline twinning and call for an overhaul of recent dispatch changes slowing ambulance response times many calls.

Those were among the resolutions passed at the Lower Mainland Local Government Association that will be forwarded to the Union of B.C. Municipalities convention this fall.

The vote opposing Kinder Morgan’s proposed Trans Mountain pipeline expansion – which would triple oil pipeline capacity through the Lower Mainland and result in a five-fold jump in outbound oil tanker traffic – narrowly passed in a standing vote at the conference in Whistler.

Some cities, like Vancouver and Burnaby, already outright oppose the project, while others await more information through the National Energy Board’s review.

Lower Mainland delegates also voted for a resolution calling for an effective patient-centred emergency response service using fire, rescue and ambulance services working together.

It cited an “unprecedented downloading of costs and risk onto local government first responders” by the controversial move last fall to downgrade various non-urgent 911 calls for dispatch by ambulance at routine speeds, without lights and sirens.

Cities and fire departments complain it’s meant much longer ambulance waits for many patients, although provincial emergency health officials contend it’s allowed faster response to the most urgent calls, with less risk of traffic crashes caused by high-speed ambulances.

New Westminster Coun. Chuck Puchmayr, the new president of the LMLGA, said part of the problem is a shortage of ambulance paramedics in the Lower Mainland, as well as chronic congestion in the region’s hospitals.

“The hospitals are bursting at the seams with emergency patients and paramedics are not able to get back into the queue to respond to these other calls,” Puchmayr said. “They’re waiting there with patients to legally transfer them over to emergency department staff. And that’s causing a huge delay.”

Motions from Squamish and Langley City also demand provincial government aid to cover cities’ costs from firefighter first responders waiting longer for ambulances to arrive.

The province has previously refused to subsidize first responder programs, saying they’re voluntary and cities could save money by having them respond only to serious emergencies.

LMLGA delegates also voted to strongly oppose development of the proposed Fraser Surrey Docks coal export terminal and the planned expansion of Neptune Terminals in North Vancouver until Port Metro Vancouver conducts formal hearings and orders a more comprehensive health impact assessment on coal dust dangers.

“The chief medical health officer of Fraser Health has been calling for this for quite some time,” noted Port Moody Coun. Rick Glumac, who also serves on the LMLGA executive. “It seems to me to be a perfectly reasonable request.”

The LMLGA, which represents 33 municipal governments from Pemberton to Yale, voted to reject a motion from Burnaby to oppose provincial government changes to the Agricultural Land Reserve, although another motion passed seeking a freeze on the planned split of the ALR into two zones pending more consultation.

Also approved were:

– An Abbotsford demand that Health Canada disclose to municipalities the locations of previously licensed medical marijuana grow-ops so they can be inspected.

– A Chilliwack resolution opposing the use of farmland for medical marijuana production and urging the province to block the classification of new pot factories as farms qualifying for lower property tax rates.

– A call for the province to regulate party buses.

– A New Westminster request for senior government aid to retrofit older wood-frame apartment buildings and care homes with sprinkling systems.

– A motion asking Ottawa to further restrict use of older DOT-111 rail tanker cars implicated in the Lac Megantic oil fire disaster and legislate their accelerated replacement.

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