Last week’s annual Union of British Columbia Municipalities conference made the news more than any in the organization’s recent history.
A new premier, new Opposition leader, a provincial government proposal to create an auditor to comment on municipal government spending, a keynote speech by renowned author and demographic expert David Foot — all the ingredients were in place to make for a memorable and meaningful event.
The Advance invited all members of Creston town council and local directors of the Regional District of Central Kootenay to provide a short summary of their observations.
Mayor Ron Toyota: “To attend this year’s UBCM Convention in Vancouver is a valuable networking and knowledge building opportunity. One of my major highlights, while not directly related to this convention, was being able to take the Canada Line to the Vancouver International Airport on Sept. 27 to welcome Dr. Raphael Elemuo, his wife Mmathapelo and their children Chima and Chioma as they arrived in Canada from South Africa via London, England. I was with Marilin States (our physician recruiter) who then spent the next four days with them in Vancouver to arrange several official meetings to process documents.
“Another highlight was our meeting on our rural regional policing “pilot” project to update and move this project forward. Fifteen were in attendance, including four staff from the Solicitor General and Public Safety Ministry, two staff from the Ministry of Community, Sport and Cultural Development, two RCMP officers with the Operations Strategy branch, RD directors Binks and Jackman, our town manager and three councillors.”
Coun. Wesly Graham: “This year’s UBCM was busy for me as most are. I am serving on the executive and that means we chair meetings and facilitate the various clinics that the members attend. The big areas of focus this week were the MAG (municipal auditor general) file and RCMP contract negotiations with the federal government. Both of these set the tone for the conference. The rising cost of policing and the RCMP wanting a blank cheque from municipalities has everyone alarmed and concerned for our communities. It is a great discussion to be in on, and would gladly talk to anyone that has questions around what is going on.
“I also chaired a clinic around agriculture with our own RDCK Area C representative Larry Binks. I am amazed at how much information gets passed on in a week’s time and it is great to have the opportunities to meet with the cabinet ministers and share our ideas and concerns. Representing Creston on the UBCM definitely allows us to be seen and heard.”
Coun. Joanna Wilson: “UBCM conference week is a time for new ideas, networking and getting focused for the coming year.
“This year we heard from party leaders, including the new premier, giving us a sense of the trends influencing decisions and policy-making on the provincial and federal levels. Among the announcements from the premier, the new office of the auditor general was perhaps the most contentious.
“Many delegates felt the office to be redundant, others felt a judicious look at the municipal books by the auditor general could produce good ideas regarding ‘value for money.’
“Former mayor of Toronto David Crombie spoke of the challenges caused by change, echoing the theme of the conference, ‘Rethink, Replace and Rejuvenate.’
“Keynote speaker David Foot, author of Boom, Bust and Echo, brilliantly outlined the need for demographic research to inform decision-making at all levels of government. For example, when Canada’s birthrate slowed down after the ‘bulge’ of the baby boomer generation, planning could have been made easier by anticipating declining enrolment in elementary schools, then in high schools, right on schedule several years later.”
Area C director Larry Binks: “This, was to say the least, the best organized and monitored convention that I have attended.
“There were some great opportunities to showcase our wonderful area, I had the opportunity to speak to a room full of very interested folks about our recently finished agricultural plan and just how really important it is to becoming sustainable from a farming and food perspective. I also had the chance to spend most of one day with the chief operating officer of the British Columbia Ambulance Service along with all executive directors of all the related departments — medical air evacuations, patient movement via the road system, staffing and training, and the financial person.
“This was a very productive and positive day with a lot of problem solving around all these issues,” said Binks.
“There were many, many more great highlights to this year’s UBCM. However as space and time are limited, this is a snapshot of my experience.”
Area B director John Kettle: “One message that was driven home for me this year was the issue of economic stability. If we don’t have a strong private sector, more of the burden of government will fall on the general taxpayer. The belief that high taxes are killing the economy is by many bureaucrats and ‘nanny state’ thinkers throughout the province. There are still those who advocate taxing and spending with no end in sight. We need to live within our means!
“From my experience this term, the regional directors, mayor and council have all worked together to benefit this valley.
“It is our job to ‘leave it better than we found it’ and for my part I will continue to work to ensure that we can be more efficient in service delivery while keeping taxes down in the future.”
Couns. Judy Gadicke and Jerry Schmalz, and Area A director Garry Jackman did not respond to the invitation to communicate their views.