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Convening for Action in British Columbia

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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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2ND ANNUAL SYMPOSIUM ON PLANNING FOR RESILIENCE: “Inspired by Buzz Holling, BC’s Stormwater Guidebook established an adaptive management precedent. A decade later, Buzz and I had a reflective conversation after his keynote address at UBC. He further inspired me,” stated Kim Stephens when he represented the Water Sustainability Action Plan as a panel member on Uncertain Water Supplies (March 2010)


“My first contact with Buzz Holling was in 1999. An assignment for King County allowed me to delve into the origins of adaptive management, and research experience around the world. Specifically, we were looking for a local government precedent, and there was none. This led me to phone Buzz,” stated Kim Stephens. “In 1999, my Aha Moment was realizing that our cross-border response to the ‘salmon crisis’ in the Pacific Northwest paralleled the efforts of Buzz Holling related to Florida Everglades Restoration.”

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DIALOGUE IN NANAIMO: “We convened at Vancouver Island University to identify solutions and inspire action so that Vancouver Island would become a flagship model of fresh water sustainability,” stated Kathy Bishop of Leadership BC Central Vancouver Island (June 2010)


“The Dialogue in Nanaimo was structured around a water sustainability panel. Rather than talking heads, the panel engaged in a form of ‘improv theatre’ to feed off each other in spontaneously expressing key messages about water. This primed the audience for ‘small group’ dialogues in eight theme areas. The small groups dialogue were followed by a ‘big group’ dialogue. A lot of ideas and information were generated by the small groups,” stated Kathy Bishop.

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NANAIMO REGION WATER PRICING WORKSHOP: “Through our Team Water Smart, the Regional District of Nanaimo is promoting water conservation because we see the benefits for drinking water and watershed protection,” stated John Finnie at the Worth Every Penny Workshop, organized under the umbrella of the Water Sustainability Action Plan (September 2010)


“Maintaining a balance between ‘Water OUT’ and ‘Water IN’ is essential because both sides of the equation are variable; and the safety margin is decreasing over time with population growth and water consumption. Conservation-oriented water pricing is also about achieving a balance – that is, a balance between charging enough to cover the cost to operate and maintain the water service, while being substantial enough to provide users with an incentive to curb wasteful water use,” stated John Finnie.

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2010 ANNUAL UBCM CONVENTION: “The philosophy behind the Water Sustainability Action Plan is quite simple: bring local and regional stakeholders together where there is a desire and energy to make some form of change,” stated Glen Brown when he provided a provincial perspective on a ‘top-down & bottom-up’ strategy for urban watershed restoration (September)


“As we move forward with the Action Plan, it is making sure that we provide the people on the ground with the tools and resources that they need to help support action at the local level. A top-down approach does not work. When a community shows interest or a desire to move something forward, that is when we mobilize. The Action Plan purpose is to engage, listen, understand and support the local interests in moving forward. That is where we have been successful,” stated Glen Brown.

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