The Capital Regional District will forward a motion at next week’s Union of BC Municipalities Conference to modernize the model that pays for the South Island’s 911 emergency service.
“The province should adapt the levy system to reflect the reality that more people use cellphones,” said CRD board chair Colin Plant.
Under the current model, which has been in place since Capital Region Emergency Services Telecommunications was formed in 2001, a levy from telephone landlines covers the cost of the service.
The most recent Statistics Canada report from 2019 shows that only 52.4 per cent of B.C. households have a landline, resulting in a huge financial shortfall.
“In 2022, the CRD paid $750,000 for 911 emergency services,” said Plant.
Because of this, the CRD and other B.C. municipalities are pushing to apply the levy to cell phone users.
CREST Manager Gord Horth says that model has already been employed in eight of the 12 provinces and territories in Canada.
“That’s been in place for some time,” he said. “But B.C., for whatever reason, has not done that.”
Plant says cellphone users in Alberta pay 95 cents per month for their 911 service.
Horth says since upgrades are needed for CREST infrastructure in the coming years to accommodate for video technology, and since emergency calls have increased to due climate change and other factors, he considers the monthly levy money well spent.
“I think it’s a small price to pay, really.”