Lively discussion at MIEDS’s first-ever public meeting

  • Apr. 17, 2009 11:00 a.m.

By Jeff King–The Misty Islands Economic Development Society (MIEDS) held its first-ever public meeting Wednesday (April 15), and several of the twenty-five islanders attending had questions for the board. MIEDS, formed a year ago to focus on island-wide economic development priorities, has never held an open meeting before, and several of those attending expressed concern.Berry Wijdeven of Tlell was present in March last year when then-Lands Minister Pat Bell handed out MIEDS’s $500,000 seed money. “I kind of see MIEDS working for us. Why this continued secrecy? I find it really quite disturbing, the level of secrecy I have seen in this organization,” Mr. Wijdeven said, “This is an appointed board, there was no process”Urs Thomas of Port Clements said most people attended the Wednesday meeting “because the process isn’t working”, and he said MIEDS had recently taken over the tourism committees on the islands.”You left the stakeholders out, he said, “I’m not happy about the process. This is supposed to be a stakeholder driven process.”Dale Lore, also of Port, said MIEDS needs a public mandate.”I urge you to consider at least having a north-end and a south-end large public meeting, get on the same page with the public. The secrecy has hurt. We need this badly,” said Mr. Lore.Anneli Rosteski, who resigned recently as MIEDS’s managing director, admitted the group could have done better.”We haven’t done as good a job as we could in this regard,” she said, “The (financial information) was recorded in the newsletter (in December). I hear your point, Berry. I think there is more we need to do.”She also said that a lot of people on the board (there are a total of 17) “share some of this frustration, that we are not moving quickly enough. We spent a lot of time this year working behind the scenes,” she said.”Everyone is saying the same thing,” Ms Rosteski said, “we are so sick and tired of planning.This group tonight is very encouraging. This is good. I think it’s a great start. This organization has to listen and move forward.”After listening to the criticism, Chair Delves said “We have done very well to date. We still have the bulk of that money (the $500,00 still intact.”Randy O’Brien of Port said the board needs people with business experience. When it was suggested that he volunteer, he said “I didn’t want on (the board) but I wish somebody would have some open house where you can give some ideas. Get out and talk to the people who are in business. Make access to the resource available to anybody.”Mr. O’Brien also called the MIEDS money “a hush fund”.”The province didn’t allow anybody but the Haida to have input in the Land Use Plan. Maybe there should be a class-action suit against the province,” he said, adding that the plan is going to make it much more difficult (for anyone) to get started.”We can’t wait, we have no jobs”, Gloria O’Brien said, referring to the MIEDS’s limited accomplishments in its first year.” She also said “we are a resource based colony. Here, our jobs are going to come from our resources, forestry and the fishery, to create work. Small businesses have to have resource based jobs in order to have their businesses stay open. The opportunity is here now to take advantage of our government. Ms O’Brien suggested a dock facility for value added products, and said we should push now so that we are set up to go when the economy recovers.Prior to the public question period, MIEDS chair Cory Delves offered a brief history of the society, saying it came out of the Land Use Planning process of a couple of years ago, and forming an economic development society was an important consensual decision by the islands’ communities.”A year ago (the province) gave us $500,000 as seed money. We have the bulk of that $500,000 still intact” spent about $140,000 last year as operating budget, money coming from other sources.”If we go forth as a group.then sometimes we can have good success,” Mr. Delves said.”Our group here recognizes that working in partnership is the key to getting things done. That’s why we have the accord with the Haida,” he said. Mr. Delves, along with other islanders, was expecting an announcement from the province recently about a community forest for the islands. However, he now says “.we are still working on that.It certainly is going to be some time coming until we get some movement there. We know it is going to be more than 25,000 cubic metres and it is going to be a lengthy process. There is some allocation of cut levels going on that may take some time.” Tourism is another important part of what MIEDS is doing, and Ms Rosteski gave a presentation on the Art Route program MIEDS has taken over from the QCI Arts Council. MIEDS has been able to access provincial money for the program, which is budgeted at $30,000 this year.Art Route is “.not just a studio tour, there are also cafes that have a lot of local art in them. It’s very broad, it speaks to the fact that people are looking for a venue to market themselves,” Ms Rosteski said. The program will publish a 28-page brochure with 15,000 copies printed, to be circulated along Highway 16, on the ferry, in Port Hardy and on the islands, and has an insert in Observer Publishing’s ‘Guide to HG/QCI’.”It really does unite all communities,” Ms Rosteski said. She also said a day trip series will be added in July, with food, nature and art highlighted.”It’s a lot easier to keep existing business in your community. Art Route is much more than a brochure. The arts are a very important part of the economy on the islands,” Ms Rosteski told those attending. She also said the group is planning to produce a map to promote the islands, businesses and essential services. MIEDS is also working on a website, which according to Mr. Delves is still under development. As well, the organization facilitated a job opportunities program that brought $300,000 to the islands to support a cedar regeneration program.”WFP did all the work. It was really just a facilitation piece on our part,” Ms Rosteski said.Other islanders who made suggestions to the group included Queen Charlotte councillor Kris Olsen, who asked “can we hire locals? We need to really, really hire locals. When we get off-island funds, let’s get local jobs.”Mr. Olsen said the islands need an overall direction of growth. He thinks an integrated trail system would be worthwhile and that increasing higher education should be a priority.Committee member Roly Thompson said “If you want to see higher education developed on the islands, then you have to hit the pavement and walk with that idea. You have to do it. You can act. You can make a difference. One person can actually get something done. If you live in the city, you can’t do that.” “We have been building a base. We need to reach out and find people for committee work. We still need to find ways to get the most value out of every piece of wood. I hope people take the opportunity to work from the ground up and come with ideas,” MIEDS’s vice-chair Carol Kulesha said as the meeting wound down. The MIEDS board is comprised of Cory Delves, Carol Kulesha, Barry Pages, Travis Glasman, Brad Setso, Skye Cantin, Brian Charmin, Hyland Fraser, Ian Gould, Shirley Kricheldorf, Chris Marrs, Andrew Merilees and Roly Thompson.

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