The Township of Langley has a long and storied history that includes millennia of occupation by the Katzie and Kwantlen First Nations before European settlers built Fort Langley – often called “the birthplace of British Columbia” – in the early 1800s. The rural township was incorporated in 1873 and continued to grow and flourish as transportation expanded in Canada, from the British Columbia Electric Railway to the Fraser Highway. Langley experienced its greatest yet economic boom post World War II when the Trans-Canada Highway brought convenience and new vigor to its suburbs. In the modern era, the township has put its energies into engaging all sectors of the community in progress, having developed a heritage center to open dialogue with the First Nations while also looking to the community at large for guidance on policy decisions and more.
Increasing Broadband Access through Competition
In 2016, the Township of Langley established a Municipal Access Agreement (MAA) to allow uniform, equal and simplified access for third-party ISPs to the town’s infrastructure. The agreement is designed to promote competition between telcos by removing barriers to entry to ensure lower prices and the best possible service in the area. Standardizing the application process also allows ISPs to focus on adopting recent technologies and exploring new methods for delivery and service improvement, rather than constantly struggling with red tape. The MAA has already shown results, with Shaw Communications announcing the availability of its Fiber+ offering in Langley and Telus incrementally deploying its PureFibre offering as well. All providers in the area are also working to deploy 5G cellular infrastructure across the municipality.
Supporting the Current and Future Workforce
Working closely with the provincial and federal Canadian governments, the Township of Langley has established a WorkBC Centre within the community to assist people seeking employment. WorkBC provides up to 35 hours of training through local public and private colleges free of charge. It also offers services to employers in the form of online job postings and promotion of them via social media, applicant pre-screenings, tailored mini-hiring fairs and multi-employer job fairs, internship opportunities and employee training grants. To ensure that WorkBC Langley is meeting both job seekers’ and employers’ needs in the community, the Langley School District regularly meets with WorkBC representatives to share information on programs and collaborate on initiatives. The Township has also provided data to WorkBC from its job posting data analysis software to allow WorkBC to better understand local trends and skill needs. In 2019 alone, WorkBC Langley helped more than 1,500 people.
The Township also provides many services to students through the Langley School District’s Career Education Department. The department offers career exploration workshops and tours throughout the school year for secondary and middle schools, allowing students to meet professionals working various fields and ask questions about their experiences. The Career Education Department has developed the WAVE Program, which places students in grades 10-12 in volunteer positions to earn future job experience. A large number of local employers participate in the program, including Fraser Health, Langley City Fire Department, Langley Memorial Hospital, Langley Township Fire Department and Langley School District Summer Maintenance. The department also offers Youth TRAIN in Trades programs, in which students participate in technical trades apprenticeships in exchange for credits towards graduation and post-secondary credits.
Engaging the Community in Policy through Open Data
Langley is one of very few municipalities in British Columbia to offer all of its online services through a single personalized login, leading to much greater accessibility for citizens. The Township continuously adds new functionality to its online tools to help the population interact with government in meaningful ways, including allowing citizens to submit tickets to fix potholes and other infrastructure issues and to track progress on those tickets. The Township government also offers an Open Data Portal to make as much information available as possible to community members. Users can login to view data on development activity, property crimes, business licenses, roads and truck routes, parks and trails and more. The Township has recently acquired additional data visualization tools through LocalIntell, enabling businesses to analyze demographics and other economic indicators to improve decision making.
In addition to facilitating eGovernment engagement, the Township of Langley has also focused on social engagement through a Public Engagement Charter, established in 2016. The Charter provides a high-level policy framework for the Township to follow to involve citizens in community planning and development. Following guidance from the Charter, Langley launched the Brookswood-Fernridge Community Plan to update the one previously set out in 1987. Through multiple stages of community consultation, workshops, dialogue sessions, open houses and public hearings, residents and stakeholders gathered to shape the new Plan based on their collective understanding of community needs.
In 2018, Canada’s federal Cannabis Act and Cannabis Regulations came into effect, legalizing recreational cannabis. Before allowing retail sales in Langley, the Township Council held a series of open houses to present the public with information on storefront cannabis retail, government roles and responsibilities and an opportunity to ask direct questions and clarify information. Through this engagement strategy, the Township was able to develop its Cannabis Retail Sales Policy with a focus on both responsibility and profitability for the community as a whole.
Adopting a Sustainability Charter
In 2008, the Township of Langley adopted a Sustainability Charter to shape initiatives for a greener future. Since the Charter’s adoption, the Township has created a number of successful programs, including the Green Building Rebates program, which provides financial incentives for builders and homeowners to implement green design principles and appliances. The Empower Me program is an award-winning energy conservation and behavior change program offered in many languages that helps community members to better understand their energy bills and the choices available to them, allowing them to save money and energy while increasing comfort. Langley has also established tree-planting requirements for all public areas and a bylaw that requires private developments to plant roughly 30 trees per acre.
In tandem with these programs, the Township has implemented green policies for municipal assets and infrastructure. Langley’s Main Hall has received an international mark of excellence for being the first municipal hall in Canada to be certified LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) CI Silver. The Township has built a public-transit fleet of multiple electric vehicles as well as many hybrids with GPS tracking systems to support route planning and fuel management. Many of the Township’s facilities have been upgraded from standard gas boilers to 98% efficiency-condensing boilers, and its Municipal Hall boiler system also incorporates solar panels.
Through these programs and more, the Township of Langley has engaged its people from all walks of life in creating a stronger, more prosperous future together.
Photo by Colin Stepney