Cabinet Ministers participated in panels at UBCM discussing these topics: Jobs and the Economy, Healthy Families, Resources and the Environment, and Community Services.
Well I made it through my first annual Union of BC Municipalities (UBCM) Convention and I have to say it was a really educational experience. Not only did I walk away with some high level ideas of where local municipalities and the Province of BC are heading, but I was also able to engage in some great discussions about the nuts and bolts of local government and what is working (and not working) for municipalities all over BC. As I mentioned in my last post, the Municipal Finance forum was really informative and lead the way to some great discussion on municipal revenue sources. Anmore is quite limited in the variety of revenue streams and we should ensure we are effectively capturing new revenue sources and properly managing our current user pay, taxation, grants and development cost charge revenue streams. I am still waiting for a government finance session to talk about reducing costs, we seem to be great at pointing out how we need to maximize revenues, but cost reductions, consolidation of expenses, municipal partnerships and other creative ideas can be a great way to free up extra cash for new projects or reduce the tax burden on our municipal taxpayers!
The Small Talk Forum for small municipalities had some inspiring examples of how small communities are focusing on providing outdoor recreational services and moving away from high cost infrastructure such as pools, ice rinks, etc. Fernie had a great presentation on an outdoor bike dirt park they have recently built. It's helped provide locals with another amenity and benefited their small tourism industry. The Small Talk forum also focused on health care issues in our province and how with ever increasing pressures to consolidate and centralize services, smaller municipalities like Anmore need to ensure we are supporting the concept of team led health care, which includes patients having access to a variety of professionals and service levels, including doctors, nurse practitioners, social workers, etc to keep patients out of long term hospital stays and in their community.
I attended several workshops, including one on the Powers of Mayor and Council, and a Workshop on Collaborative Watershed Governance. The Powers of Mayor and Council workshop was a great review for a new councillor like myself on the job of council vs. staff. There was an interesting point made that our Canadian system is a "weak Mayor system" and unlike some US cities, our Mayors' hold only marginally more responsibility than those of council. The comment was put out there that cities could be more progressive in Canada if we had a "strong Mayor system", similar to the city of New York. They also explained that our BC Mayors' are responsible for reading "The Riot Act" prior to calling in the police, during any protest of more than 12 people deemed to be out of control. BC has the best known examples in Canadian history of local Mayors reading "The Riot Act". First in Prince Rupert in 1958 and more recently during the Stanley Cup riots of 2011. While I have no doubt there is good reason for such an act, I do think it's interesting that the act requires a Mayor to attend the event and read the following proclamation:
"Her Majesty the Queen charges and commands all persons being assembled immediately to disperse and peaceably to depart to their habitations or to their lawful business on the pain of being guilty of an offence for which, on conviction, they may be sentenced to imprisonment for life. God Save the Queen."
The Workshop on Collaborative Watershed Government was a little more practical and provided some great insight into how municipalities are working across municipal boundaries to create consistent policy and bylaw related to watershed protection. We share many watershed areas with Port Moody and Coquitlam and would benefit from more communication and consistency in policy and regulation, beyond those contained in Riparian Area Regulations (RAR) and with Provincial and Federal regulatory bodies. It would benefit municipalities to move towards collaborative and co-operative governance of shared watershed areas. While our biggest local concern is development, there are many municipalities that have big industry, mining and resource management issues that are greatly affecting their watershed quality if they are downstream of these operations. I am in support of BC implementing a Collaborative Watershed Government Accord.
Several sessions of the UBCM were dedicated to electing new UBCM board members and voting on resolutions put forward by various municipalities and the UBCM committees. This included everything from a vote to support that the appropriate levels of government look into the decriminalization of marijuana; to the opposition of increased tanker traffic in BC waters; and the support of mandatory sterilization of rabbits for sale in pet stores (apparently Sannich doesn't have coyote control as in Anmore and has seen upwards of $300,000 in damage from out of control rabbit populations in their area!).
I had some productive dialogue with councillors from all over BC and with my own fellow Anmore council and benefited a great deal from attending the UBCM. Our municipality spends a considerable amount each year sending council to the UBCM Convention and I'm happy to report back on what I've learned and accomplished during our trip.
When UBCM is held in Vancouver every 2nd year, the cost is considerably less. This year the convention was held in Victoria and there was the added expense of hotel and transportation. I do think it was a worthwhile expense and hope Anmore taxpayers will see the benefit in this type of networking, information sharing and educational activity for council members. I considered my length of stay and transportation options in deciding to attend UBCM and was able to utilize public transit (West Coast Express, Canada Line and bus) one way and reduce my hotel stay from 5 to 3 nights by arriving the day of the conference and leaving at the end of the last full day. All of Anmore council opted to arrive the day of convention to save on extra hotel fees.
For your information and to provide transparency in spending, here are my convention expenses:
UBCM Convention Fee: $660.80 + $30 for Municipal Finance Forum = $690.80
Hotel (3 nights): $588.42
Travel Expenses: $102.25 (public transit and ferry to Victoria ($22.25), fee for car and 2 councillors on the way back to Vancouver was $80)
Thanks for taking the time to read my blog. It's great to be out in the community, participating in some of the great events in and around Anmore and speaking to residents about what matters to them!