January 29th, 2020 ~ Vol. 90 No. 4
Council passes bylaw regarding work camps
Crowsnest Pass Herald Front Page
David Selles
Pass Herald Reporter
Council spent time finalizing Bylaw 1040, 2019 – Land Use Bylaw Amendment – Work Camp Uses in Industrial Land Use Districts at their recent council meeting on January 21st.

The discussion focused around what the members of council would all like to see in this bylaw.

The first topic of discussion centered around the length council would like to see potential camps in operation.

Councillor Sygutek advised council she would like to see fewer than the four years currently presented in the bylaw.

“I have a problem with the four years. I'd rather see that number close to three. This is new and we haven't done this. If we get locked into something with someone we don't like it could be bad. We could have three with an opportunity to renew for a fourth year. Four years is a long time.”

Councillor Ward agreed with Councillor Sygutek and mentioned Riversdale’s proposed construction period isn’t that long of a time period to begin with.

“Riversdale has told us all along that their construction period will be about two years so if we allow 3, that gives some wiggle room.”

Work Camp approval is determined by the MPC, which limits the amount of say the municipality has, which brought up the next topic of conversation regarding what can be put in the definition to ensure councils preferences are met if a work camp comes to the area.
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Councillor Lundy commented on the fact that the MPC could vary the number of people a camp can hold, the size of the camp and the length of term unless council specifically states those things in their definition.

“The MPC could vary any of these conditions including the number of years and sleeping units. They could vary all of those. I'm happy to see four acres embedded into the definition so that the MPC can't bury it.”

Councillor Sygutek then made a comment regarding the MPC.

“I have a really hard time leaving this up to MPC to make a decision. I understand why it needs to be discretionary and the thought process behind it. If I had my way, I would have direct control over the two areas but I know that we can't. We're the ones who are elected; we're the ones that will take the heat on it. Embedded in those definitions I think we better make sure we know exactly what we're willing to put up with in those definitions because then it's in stone and I will feel we have some control over it.”

Another topic that was briefly discussed was that a bond be placed for rehabilitation and removal of the camp once it is no longer needed.

During the discussions, Councillor Ward also mentioned that he spoke with the mayor of Elkford about these camps and what to expect.
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"I spoke to the mayor of Elkford about this because they have a work camp and he said to put all our restrictions in up front and that we need to be firm with them because the minute we sign the agreement our bargaining power is gone."

Councillor Ward then mentioned other topics that were discussed.

"He told me they mandated security 24 hours a day and they have someone there 24 hours a day, seven days a week. They mandated a paramedic on site 24/7. They have a code of conduct there and I was speaking to a contractor and the words he used to me was the security guys won't stop them. He said you do anything that violates that code of conduct and their gone. That's mandated with both guests and employees of the camp."

"One of the things misconceptions about having a camp is an influx of crime. He told me they meet with their RCMP detachment every three months and since the camp has been there, there's been zero change in their crime stats. He touched on the misconception that it doesn't create any employment in town. He told me three quarters of the staff that work in the camp are local people and in fact the one negative they did hear was from their retail businesses who lost a bunch of people to the camp because the camp was paying more than the retail jobs, which created opportunities for other local people and drove the wages up in the community."

Councillor Ward also mentioned that they discussed the code of conduct.

"He said they don't tolerate anything. He told me if they violate it there's no second chance and they're gone.

Councillor Ward also mentioned that he was told local businesses like bars, restaurants and grocery stores all saw an uptake in business.

During their discussion, the mayor of Elkford advised that council make the camps as close to town as possible because the easier it is to get there, the more the campers will come in and the more money they'll spend.

Mayor Painter brought up that he would like to see camps be for specific groups and would prefer not having multiple different projects in one camp.
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Councillor Ward agreed and added that Elkford has done something similar that could work in this area.

"To me the only reason we're doing a work camp is to take advantage of an opportunity with the possibility of these mines going in. In Elkford, it's for Teck contractors only. It's not specific to a project but it is specific to Teck contractors. I would have no problem doing a camp here for Riversdale and their contractors. If we open this up to the general public we're going to get into rental and real estate market and I have no interest in that."

Councillor Sygutek asked that it be made clear these camps will not be rented out.

“This is an industry specific endeavour that we're doing to move the community along.”

The current housing struggles in the community is the main reason work camps are becoming an option in the area as well.

Mayor Painter touched on those issues during discussion as well.

“If we had enough properties to rent out in our community we wouldn't be looking at a camp but we don't. We also realize that once a camp is in place and construction is done, that gives us an opportunity to get construction underway. No one will come spend a dollar to put in more housing until that switch goes on. This gives an opportunity of three years, to build up enough housing to accommodate the workforce. It's a finite time. We're limiting this to three or four years and after that, that's it. The houses will be in place and these workers must relocate to different housing.

Some information was brought to council in support of these camps.

Following the CARES study in 2019, it was revealed that limited housing is the number one challenge experienced by over 80 per cent of Crowsnest Pass businesses at this time.

Over 45 per cent of the private dwellings in the Crowsnest Pass are over 60 years of age or older and need considerable repair to be livable.

It was mentioned to council that having these camps will provide temporary accommodations for permanent mining staff who wait for rentals to become available in the are or who intend to purchase or build their own home.

More added benefits for council to consider is that without work camps, there would be a large impact on tourism due to limited vacancy for visitors travelling to the area for different events.

Following all of the discussion, Councillor Lundy made a motion that the following amendments be made to the bylaw. That work camp means a temporary residential complex used to house workers for specific projects on a temporary basis up to three years, with an option to extend to four years subject to municipal approval and will be a minimum size of four acres.

The motion was carried by council.

Councillor Ward then made a motion to move second reading of the bylaw with a friendly amendment by Councillor Lundy to include the bond portion at the end of the project, which was accepted by Councillor Ward.

Second reading was then carried.

Councillor Sygutek made a motion for third and final reading, which was also carried.
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January 29th, 2020 ~ Vol. 90 No. 4
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