Attendees can expect a lot of new faces and recharged enthusiasm at this year’s Union of B.C. Municipalities conference.
The annual weeklong event, which starts Monday in Vancouver, attracts elected officials from across the province for clinics, workshops, resolution sessions, speeches and the opportunity to meet with each other and cabinet ministers to discuss the issues that are important in their communities.
“Being the first year after the civic election in 2018, there’s a whole bunch of new energy coming into the convention,” said Union of B.C. Municipalities (UBCM) president Arjun Singh, who is a city councillor in Kamloops. “Combining our new energy with folks who have been a round a while is a really good thing to do.”
Singh said the energy is reflected in the large number of resolutions, which are put forward by municipal councils, regional districts and local government associations from across B.C. There are 277 resolutions on the books for 2019, not counting those that could be raised at the meeting. That’s more than in each of the previous five years.
“It will be a challenge to get through with respect to timing, but very exciting to see different issues being raised, different things being put forward,” Singh said.
Climate change and environment, housing, transportation, economic development, addiction and community safety are some of the major concerns addressed in the resolutions.
A special resolution from the UBCM executive responds to member concerns about provincial processes and programs that have been brought forward without community consultation. They include the caribou recovery program and a dock management plan on the Sunshine Coast.
“We want to make sure there is some consistency there in engaging local government,” said UBCM second vice-president Brian Frenkel, a councillor from the District of Vanderhoof.
Singh said one issue he’s received numerous calls and emails about in recent weeks is the downturn in the forestry sector, and he’s certain it will emerge as a major topic at the convention.
A review panel will be looking for input from delegates as part of the UBCM’s convention finance and sponsorship review. The review comes on the heels of some municipal politicians triggering alarms about a reception put on by the consulate-general of China.
Many of the workshops, clinics and policy sessions reflect the overall theme of the conference, which is resiliency and change.
“There’s always something there for everybody. It’s a very, very rich week,” Singh said.
The conference is particularly important for those coming from smaller communities, said Frenkel.
“The value to us is we get to the convention and listen to other communities and their best practices, but more importantly we get to attend a lot of the seminars that really aren’t provided to us in rural British Columbia,” Frenkel said.
Vanderhoof council members will also attend nine meetings with provincial ministers.
“It is (like) speed dating, but it is 15 minutes with the minister and their staff to talk about the issues that are important to Vanderhoof,” he said.
The conference is also an opportunity for the provincial government to make announcements. Last year, there was funding to deal with wildfire risks, build child-care spaces and recognize climate action leadership, and a renewed commitment to reconciliation with Indigenous peoples.
Premier John Horgan, Municipal Affairs Minister Selina Robinson, Opposition Leader Andrew Wilkinson and B.C. Green Leader Andrew Weaver will address delegates this year.
Last year the event, which was held in Whistler, attracted almost 1,900 attendees. UBCM director of communications Paul Taylor said because the municipal election campaign was underway, some elected officials stayed home to campaign.
More than 2,000 people are registered to attend this year’s conference. The event typically draws more attendees when it is held in Vancouver, compared to Whistler or Victoria.
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