I wanted to connect with you as we start another week under the rapidly evolving COVID-19 pandemic. It seems like every day there is new information for us all to process and adapt to. I also wanted to give you an update on the actions your local government has been taking during this crisis. Along with other NRRM officials, I attend regular meetings and updates with senior government officials, mayors/councillors from neighbouring communities, local emergency service providers, key health care providers and our First Nation neighbours. It is heartening to watch so many agencies working together towards a common goal.

Despite some truly heroic cooperation, this pandemic is still hitting the social and economic framework of our community hard. Regional Council and I are using whatever tools we have to try to lessen the impact. For example, the NRRM has waived any late fee or interest charge (that we have the ability to waive), and we have postponed our annual budget meeting to consider the impacts of the pandemic on the municipality’s bottom line.

As you may have seen, late last week the government of British Columbia announced a series of new orders which significantly impact local government operations. Under these orders, the provincial government has set aside any local states of emergency and limited the emergency measures local governments can take in isolation. Along with many other mayors, I meet weekly by conference call with the Ministers of Public Safety and Solicitor General, and of Municipal Affairs, and they have made it quite clear that a harmonized, BC-wide response will be mandated to ensure the pandemic response is coordinated effectively.

The province has also clarified that local governments have an important role in helping coordinate information. Regional Council identified early on in this crisis that the municipality could play an important role in helping connect people with the torrent of information that is constantly flooding in. With this goal in mind, we created a single COVID-19 information page on our website. Please continue to check in on this page for local updates and links to other important information.

We are also taking steps to restructure our organization to better serve our community, including providing staff coverage seven days a week, compiling community assets that can assist, and increasing community outreach endeavours (both in Fort Nelson and up-highway). More information on these changes will be communicated in the following days.

We also know this current situation will not last forever, and we are well into our planning process for emerging from this pandemic. We are looking at every opportunity within our procurement processes to have projects ready to go that will provide opportunities and work for local businesses.

As we all work our way through this unprecedented situation, please continue to follow the directions from provincial and federal health officials, observing proper physical distancing and handwashing. The only way we can beat this thing is to beat it together.

Finally, I want to extend a huge thank you to everyone working across our community to keep us all safe, warm and fed while we weather this storm.

Stay safe out there!

Gary Foster, Mayor
Northern Rockies Regional Municipality
E: GFoster@NorthernRockies.ca | P: 250.500.1060