The week long meeting of municipal minds was inspirational. memorable, and in one case, a financial success according to local politicians.
The annual Union of British Columbia Municipalities (UBCM) conference hosted 162 municipalities, four First Nations, 29 regional districts and 23 hospital districts in Vancouver last week.
Although 155 resolutions were read through and voted on, the provinces’s responses and possible changes to legislation, will not be released until spring 2014.
The City of Trail had one resolution on the books regarding provincial funding of social service and housing programs in B.C.
“From my perspective it was an excellent convention for Trail,” said Mayor Dieter Bogs at council Monday. “Attainable housing is an issue that is picking up momentum at the UBCM,” he said, “and these things usually become something the province listens to,” adding, “whether it has an impact or not this year is another question.”
Although Fruitvale did not have an official resolution, Mayor Patricia Cecchini had the opportunity to make a presentation at the small communities forum about the Age Friendly Beaver Valley program. “We received an overwhelming response by the delegates and have been asked by other small communities to start or grow their own programs,” said Cecchini.
“In her speech, Minister Oakes acknowledged the work we have done so far.”
The conference was a financial success for the village when the mayor was presented a $10,000 infrastructure planning grant for the sewer main realignment and lift station feasibility study, added Cecchini.
Area A director, Ali Grieve, said the Rural BC Strategy was an important working part of the sessions at UBCM and focused on “the pathway to prosperity in BC runs through our rural communities.”
“This is not likely big news to those of us who live in rural B.C.,” said Grieve.
“This initiative is to ask the province to put more focus on what rural B.C. needs to succeed,” she explained. “Apparently someone was listening, as the Minister of Forest’s portfolio has been increased to include the Rural BC component.
“This is good news.”
For many years, the UBCM membership has tried to pass a resolution to extend the municipal electoral term from three to four years to align with the provincial votes.
Historically, the issue has been voted down, with some rural councillors citing the position as mainly volunteer work with minimum pay, but this year the resolution was supported by sixty percent of the voting delegation.
“I opposed the motion,” said Grieve. “I believe that when someone puts their name on a ballot they should be willing to commit to at least two terms,” she said. “So this is a commitment of eight years, as opposed to six.”
Grieve contends that more young people need to be representing community interests, but with such low stipends compared to the larger municipalities, the official would need to keep a full time job in the smaller rural centres to be involved in local government.
“Let the larger centres go to a four year term and leave the smaller more rural communities with the three-year term,” said Grieve.
Regional district chair and Fruitvale Coun. Larry Gray said that longer terms might act as a disincentive for people running for office.
“Since politics in rural B.C. is often limited to retired folks due to small stipends and the need to be available for day time meetings, the four year term seems more daunting,” he explained.