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Convening for Action in British Columbia

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DOWNLOAD A COPY OF: Delta’s Rain Garden Program for Urban Landscape Enhancement – Sustaining the Legacy through the Second Decade and Beyond (released June 2020) – “Like any good relationship, successful collaboration thrives on long-term commitment, by both local government and citizen volunteers,” stated Deborah Jones, Rain Gardens Coordinator, Cougar Creek Streamkeepers


The City of Delta is midway through the second decade of its rain garden program. Thus, Deborah Jones has the perspective of time as she looks back in order to look ahead. Her reflections are NOT about the technical details of creating rain gardens. Of far more value, her reflections transcend the ‘technical’ by focusing on the social (that is, people) dimension. The latter ultimately determines the long-term success (or failure) of any program. Download a copy of the document that builds on Deborah’s reflections and celebrates ‘the story behind the story’ of Delta’s rain garden program.

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IN MEMORIAM: “Erik Karlsen was a ‘change agent’ in every sense of the word, made his mark on so many fronts, and was respected throughout,” stated Eric Bonham, a former colleague in the BC provincial government, when he reflected on the influence and impact of Erik Karlsen in bringing people with different perspectives together to find common ground


“Erik Karlsen reflected the very best qualities of a dedicated civil servant, committed to outcomes that served the common interests of the province, building partnerships that resulted in creative yet practical policies, and endlessly thinking ‘outside the box’ that oftentimes made his colleagues’ heads spin! Erik built many connections throughout his extraordinary career that included contacts within the three levels of government, the academic sector and community stewardship groups. His broad range of interests allowed him to move comfortably from one discipline to another,” stated Eric Bonham.

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DOWNLOAD: “Water Sustainability Action Plan for British Columbia: Framework for Building Partnerships” – released in February 2004


“A roundtable of land and water champions created the Water Sustainability Action Plan. Timing is everything – a successful outcome requires that the right people be in the right place at the right time. Producing an Action Plan that was credible was made possible through a precedent-setting approach to collaboration that involved representatives of multiple  provincial government ministries. This helped us get the attention and blessing of Premier Gordon Campbell. Our approach recognized that the greatest impact on water and water resources occurs through our individual values, choices and behaviour,” stated Kim Stephens.

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IN MEMORIAM: Erik Karlsen (1945-2020) has a special place in the history of the Partnership for Water Sustainability. He was the ‘eminence grise’ during development and early years of implementing the Water Sustainability Action Plan for British Columbia


Over the course of his career in government, Erik Karlsen bridged the worlds of municipal affairs and environmental stewardship. For a generation of elected representatives, his was a familiar face in the local government setting. He was indeed one of a kind, and his ability to envision the big picture, yet identify practical steps going forward, was what made him stand out from the crowd and earned him much respect from his colleagues. Erik served the public interest – the public hopes and dreams for a better tomorrow, for the environment, for human communities, and for future generations – almost without equal.

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IN MEMORIAM: “Erik Karlsen had a long and unique career in the public service. He served the public interest almost without equal, with a style likely not to be seen again for a very long time. The Georgia Basin Initiative was so indicative of who Eric was and how he operated,” stated Joan Sawicki, a former BC Minister of Environment, Lands and Parks (during the period 1996 through 2000)


“I first met Erik in action when we were assigned to work together, from mid-1994 to 1996. I had just been appointed parliamentary secretary to Minister of Municipal Affairs, Darlene Marzari. So, she put us together – and the Georgia Basin Initiative was born. We were a very small staff at GBI – Judith Cullington, Charmaine Hall, and Brent Mueller. We were a small group but, with Erik’s energy and access to just about everybody everywhere, he created the illusion of something much larger,” stated Joan Sawicki.

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UNDERSTANDING CLIMATE CHANGE: “If mitigation is about CARBON, then adaptation is about WATER”, stated the late John Slater, (former) Parliamentary Secretary for Water Supply and Allocation, when he spoke at the Okanagan Workshop on Managing Stormwater in a Changing Climate (October 2010)


“Designing with nature captures the essence of climate change adaptation. Adaptation is about responding to the changes that will inevitably occur. Adaptation is at the community level and is therefore about collaboration. Rainwater management is at the heart of designing with nature,” stated John Slater. He told the story of how the Tim Horton’s restaurant in Osoyoos showed what one can do on the ground, at the site level, to make a difference in achieving a bigger picture objective – protect Osoyoos Lake!

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RESILIENCY PLANNING DURING A PANDEMIC: “Information technology (IT) finally proved its worth, as the transition to working from home instead of the office was almost seamless, albeit with limitations,” stated CAO Emanuel Machado, when describing the Town of Gibsons response to the life-altering and ongoing COVID-19 emergency situation


“In our resiliency framework, Emergency Planning is identified as an area of focus and includes recommendations to update programs to support neighbourhood preparedness to deal with natural or human-induced disasters. We had barely identified that as an action, and here we are dealing with an extremely serious situation, affecting everything and everyone we know. I wanted to share some thoughts about what I have observed in terms of our local government’s response to this situation,” stated Emanuel Machado.

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CONVENING FOR ACTION IN BRITISH COLUMBIA: 2010 was a ‘watershed year’ for the Water Sustainability Action Plan, with outreach taking place at 10 major events in three regions, to provide peer-based learning for Living Water Smart, Building Greener Communities, and Adapting to a Changing Climate


“The Partnership’s outreach spotlight in 2010 was on the rollout of the second in the Beyond the Guidebook series of guidance documents for rainwater management and restoration of hydrologic function in urban watersheds. ‘Beyond the Guidebook 2010’ describes how a ‘convening for action’ culture has taken root in BC. Bringing together local government practitioners in neutral forums has enabled implementers to collaborate as regional teams. How to do it examples help decision-makers visualize what ‘design with nature’ policy goals look like on the ground,” stated Kim Stephens.

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BOWKER CREEK FORUM: Organized under the umbrella of the Water Sustainability Action Plan, and hosted by the Capital Regional District, the Bowker Creek Forum was a celebration of the Bowker Creek Blueprint, a provincially significant 100-year Action Plan for urban watershed restoration (February 2010)


“So, why did we choose Bowker Creek, one might ask? The watershed is completely built out, and the creek channel is enclosed in pipes for two-thirds of its length. We thought of it as a learning opportunity. If we can do it in Bowker, we can do it in any creek in the region. There had been a lot of work done by the community to raise awareness. The biggest factor in the decision, however, was the very, very strong contingent in the community that wanted to get a better functioning creek back in their community,” stated Jody Watson.

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IMPLEMENT GREEN INFRASTRUCTURE TO ACHIEVE WATER SUSTAINABILITY: “The Vancouver Island Learning Lunch Seminar Series will help facilitate inter-departmental alignment and a consistent regional approach. The City of Courtenay and Cowichan Valley Regional District are partners who are helping us pilot this work,” announced Deputy Minister Dale Wall, Ministry of Community Services (May 2008)


“We have to develop expertise to support The New Business As Usual. Vancouver Island is the pilot region for much of this work through CAVI, Convening for Action on Vancouver Island. The approach to practitioner education is inclusive, and supports water-centric planning and a design with nature way-of-thinking. It actually helps to make liveable communities that are in balance with ecology. The goal is that today’s expectations will become tomorrow’s standards; and that we build the legal, technical and policy basis with which to support green infrastructure,” stated Dale Wall.

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