Kamloops has made a fairly large investment by sending a contingent to Victoria for the annual Union of B.C. Municipalities conference in Victoria. Mayor Peter Milobar and councillors Nancy Bepple, Donovan Cavers, Ken Christian, Arjun Singh and Marg Spina are there for a week. Their stay won't come cheap.
It would be easy to pass off these confabs as full of hot air and not worth the money. Wouldn't it be better to spend the dollars on filling potholes instead? We say that kind of thinking is short-sighted.
Take, for example, the debate on decriminalization of marijuana that opened the conference. The education our council members received from this session was alone worth the price of admission. But there is more to it than that.
Decriminalization may be coming sooner than many of us care to envision. The Conservative government in Ottawa is adamant that this won't happen, but one look at recent polls is proof enough that the NDP has a shot at power and things could change quickly.
Of course, municipalities have no real say in the subject — and their vote on a resolution calling for decriminalization is largely symbolic. Still, it is municipal governments that would be left to deal with the consequences of any change in the law.
Try to imagine what Kamloops would be like if marijuana were to be decriminalized. The meetings between councillors and representatives from the RCMP detachment would be flying fast and furious. How would the new laws be applied? Would they result in less crime? Or would they result in new types of crime?
And if police found themselves spending less time on enforcement of marijuana laws, would they be freed up to do other work? What would we want them to do? Or maybe we would choose to save money by cutting back on policing.
And crime is only one part of the puzzle. If decriminalization were to lead to social problems, you can be sure that many of them would be left at the door of City Hall to deal with. We might spend less money fighting crime, but more money dealing new or exacerbated social ills in our city.
So thank goodness our councillors are learning about this and other issues, because they're the ones who will be making important decisions once the fallout hits us.
Their attendance at UBCM not only better prepares them for choices on policy, it also holds them to a higher level of accountability. If our representatives make decisions we don't like, at least we can take solace that they were informed decisions. They certainly won't be able to plead ignorance.
We Say editorials represent the viewpoint of The Daily News and are written by editor Robert Koopmans, city editor Tracy Gilchrist, news editor Mike Cornell or associate news editors Dan Spark and Mark Rogers.