The 2013 Union of BC Municipalities (UBCM) convention was held at the Vancouver Convention Centre with approximately 2,000 delegates attending the five-day conference.
From my perspective, the purpose of attending the convention is to: attend educational sessions that provide us with information and tools to help us with decision making for our communities; address issues facing municipalities and regional districts and work on resolutions requesting the provincial government to address changes to legislation and our community environment (the recycling issue is an example); meet with ministers to address issues within our communities.
An added plus is meeting with other municipal and regional politicians and discussing their current issues and possible solutions.
Tuesday morning I attended a meeting with Minister Bill Bennett, representatives from CBT and regional districts committee members where we had a discussion on the membership and make up of the board appointees from the regional districts. It was a good meeting and will be helpful to both the CBT board and the regional district boards.
The smalltalk forum for small communities was held on Tuesday. Several success stories from various community programs were highlighted along with some good discussion topics. The gas tax funding and infrastructure funding were discussed and supported by the members. Without these funds, we would not be able to provide the services and infrastructure upgrades without going to the tax payer for the full amount. So, important programs to support.
The BC Ambulance service situation in small, remote communities was also discussed as it is felt that the system as it is now no longer functions for our areas and will become increasingly stressed.
Minister of Community, Sport & Cultural Development Coralee Oakes addressed the smalltalk forum. She is from a small rural community and is aware of the issues. The minister recognizes that small communities have significant impact on the province and has promised to be our champion.
Council met with BC Hydro’s Cam Matheson, Vice-President of Transmission & Distribution and discussed reliability of power in Nakusp. A new substation is being planned for Nakusp and we wanted to ensure that we would have more reliable power to our communities. We have one service line in and in order to have more reliable power, we need to have two lines. Apparently this is expensive and not planned for our area. I find this curious since the power generated for a good portion of the province comes from our area and why would BC Hydro not be looking at providing us with the best possible scenario. We will be considering a motion to send a letter requesting two lines in their future upgrades. We also discussed the importance of improved communications with BC Hydro.
Wednesday, the trade fair opened and there were a lot of interesting booths with products and services for communities to consider. It’s a good place to learn about new products and services and to touch base with people who can work with us in future endeavours.
The Annual General Meeting took placed on Wednesday as well as our association lunches and presentations. An exciting moment for Nakusp was when we won a Wood First Champion award for the Kuskanax Footbridge. This is the second time we have won this award.
I attended a meeting with the Regional District to discuss Technology – broad band needs for our rural communities with the Minister Andrew Wilkinson.
My final meeting that day was with Minister Bill Bennett. The Columbia Basin Local Governments Committee presented Minister Bennett with the findings from the public meetings along with recommendations to cabinet. The Minister is fully aware of the issues facing our communities and is in support of our efforts.
Thursday Council met with Shirley Bond (Ministry of Jobs, Tourism and Skills Training and Minister Responsible for Labour) and Minister Naomi Yamamoto (Minister of State for Tourism and Small Business). We explained the importance of the Nakusp Hot Springs and provision of jobs and training in our community. We requested further work with the ministry to continue to explore ideas and opportunities for Nakusp. We stressed the need for support in the provincial skills training for our area. Minister Bond was aware of the work that our community has been doing and congratulated us for being proactive with Opportunities BC and the various programs the ministry is supporting. Nakusp was the feature for Sept. on the Opportunities BC website.
A highlight of the convention was keynote speaker Stephen Lewis who talked about his personal experiences in Africa and the horrors of the HIV/AIDS pandemic, as well as global efforts to address sexual violence. Lewis linked his work in the international community with the work of B.C.’s local elected officials and spoke directly to a number of themes that were being address in this year’s resolutions.
Council also met with Lawrence Pillon Senior Manager of Community Relations to discuss communication between BC Hydro and the Village and the need for improvement.
The resolution sessions covered two days and were – at times – quite lively. I didn’t have the opportunity to attend the session on Marijuana for Medical Purposes Regulations but understand that it was quite lively with concern being voiced on the responsibility gap for inspection and remediation of residences used for marijuana cultivation under regulations that will continue until next spring.
A resolution requesting the provincial government to develop a separate program to reimburse fire departments that respond to highway incidents was endorsed.
UBCM delegates, unanimously passed an amended version of special resolution SR-1 Packaging & Printed Paper Product Stewardship, requesting an additional 90 days for local governments to properly clarify and consider Multi-Material BC’s financial incentive and service offer.
Three other resolutions that affect our area were endorsed: request that the provincial government ensure that any proposed change in the level of health services available to any community must first be the subject of consultation between the health authority and local health providers, residents of the affected community and the relevant local governments.
The second is concerning air ambulance services – UBCM is to meet with the provincial government to develop air ambulance services that work for the whole province.
The third is the term for council elections be changed to four-year terms and the delegates would like to see this occur with the 2014 elections. There was a 60 per cent endorsement.
Friday morning, we met with Minister Coralee Oakes, where we had the opportunity to thank the province for the Community Recreation grant that the Village of Nakusp received to build the Kuskanax Creek Footbridge and the jobs that these projects provide for our community. We also explained the importance of grants to small communities as well as the need for support for Jobs, skills and training.