This week, Mayor Peter Milobar, and councillors Donovan Cavers, Ken Christian, Arjun Singh, Marg Spina and myself will attend the Union of BC Municipalities’ (UBCM’s) annual convention in Victoria. This is one of the most important meetings that council members attend throughout the year. It’s important because of information gathered, resolutions on policies UBCM would like the provincial government to adopt, and relationships built.
During the week, our mayor and councillors will attend a range of seminars including the implication of decriminalization of marijuana, alternative power generation, and local government finance. There are also sessions on improving employment for persons with disabilities, community poverty reduction strategies, and the BC policing plan. As council members, we are always looking for new ways to doing things, and wanting to understand the issues better.
The Municipal Insurance Association, which insures all B.C. municipalities, and the Municipal Finance Authority, which provides financing services both have their annual meetings. If it were not for these two groups, which allow municipalities to pool their insurance and borrowing needs, our city would pay significantly higher insurance and borrowing costs.
UBCM resolution sessions are known for encompassing a broad range of opinions and allowing for full debate of issues. Some of the resolutions that will likely garner the most debate at the convention are a resolution asking the provincial government to ban of expanded oil tanker traffic on B.C.’s coasts, and a resolution asking for the decriminalization of marijuana. There are advocates on both sides of these issues so the debate should be lively.
UBCM resolutions cannot force the provincial government to change policy. But, as part of an active democracy, having the debate allows for the issues to be better understood, and hopefully ensure the provincial government makes wiser decisions.
Last year, through Kamloops council, I brought forward a resolution to UBCM asking for the ban of minors using tanning salons. UBCM endorsed the resolution and subsequently the provincial government enacted legislation that supported that resolution. This year, Coun. Christian brought forward a resolution through council asking for a ban of smoking on outdoor restaurant patios. I hope that the resolution is supported and that it spurs the provincial government on to enact legislation to replace the patchy and inconsistent local bylaws municipalities now have.
The final purpose of the convention is to build relationships. Mayor and council will have the opportunities to meet provincial ministers in formal meetings, but also all of the provincial government, including the premier, as well as the members of the official opposition in receptions. Given the upcoming election, it is important we know MLAs from both sides of the house. Having personal relationships with ministers and MLAs goes a long way down the way when Kamloops is lobbying for more funding for Royal Inland Hospital, changes to provincial funding of municipal infrastructure, and supporting the local school district’s goal of a trades high school at NorKam.
Getting to know fellow mayors and councillors in other cities is also important. We all face similar issues like rising costs of policing and fire protection, increased downloading of social services to the municipal governments, and making our cities as liveable as possible for young and old alike. Myself, and my council colleagues always gain great ideas from other municipalities on how to make our city better.
By being at UBCM, our mayor and council ensures Kamloops voice is heard at the provincial level and that we return to Kamloops with best practices from across the province.