Union of British Columbia Municipalities Conference

Union of British Columbia Municipalities Conference

October 3, 2016

Every September, the Union of British Columbia Municipalities (UCBM) holds their annual conference. Some ask what is the value for money in attending and why should all of council attend?

I’ve been on council for eight years and have attended UCBM each year. In comparison, I have attended the Federation of Canadian Municipalities conference just once and have been to four Southern Interior Local Government Association (SILGA) conferences.

Our first meeting at UBCM 2016 started with Minister Fassbender (Community, Sport and Cultural Development) presenting the City with a $10,000 grant for a storm water management development and impact study. We also talked about whether or not the Province would fund a study if the City where to ever to consider expanding its boundaries. A study would be needed to examine the benefits and costs associated with a change in governance and provide capital for services such as water or sewer, and the costs associated to connect to Penticton. 

We lobbied to have by-law fines added to tax in arrears accounts to help with enforcement of by-law offences.  We also spoke to the minister (and several others) about the need for certainty with grants, how to streamline the grant process, and a better program similar to the gas tax grant program.

UBCM is the only opportunity for council members to interact with other councillors and regional directors from around the province to exchange ideas and talk about best practises and lessons learned. In addition to the professional development opportunities and seminars, we can also meet with Ministers and their staff to discuss issues or concerns.  UBCM offers excellent opportunities to lobby for our community needs now and into the future and build relationships.

Last year we met with Jobs, Tourism, and Skills Training Minister Shirley Bond for a study her Ministry funded on employee recruitment and retention strategies. This year we were back to get funding on implementing some of the recommendations in the study including: creating a centralized online portal for job listings to help employers recruit staff and ensure potential recruits can find work for their spouse; and making a hub for businesses to share in training opportunities  and share training costs with other similar businesses. 

On behalf of the Regional District (RDOS) we lobbied for: tenure for the KVR trail (especially around the Vaseux Lake area), bio-solid disposal and landfill gas capture at Campbell Mountain, wildfire mitigation funding, policing in rural areas, youth mental health, planning for an aging population, referral process with first nations, and ensuring economic and social sustainability factors get used when considering school closures

.Some recent examples of programs coming out of UBCM  that are building strong relationships with the Provincial government include: cycling precinct concept and pilot project for cycling route signs and road maintenance program, employee recruitment and retention study, permanent welding program at OK College, casino relocation with net benefits to the City of $100M over 40 years, shared services study,  72 affordable housing units plus 42 units of  low income housing, Penticton creek restoration showcase project, gaming grants for our non-profits and major events, and several others that haven’t come to fruition yet, all in addition to the most notable project of getting the $312 million hospital expansion committed to and started.

Residents will always have varied opinions on what expenditures are good investments, what should be prioritized, and what is best for the community. We can’t simply close our eyes, think happy thoughts and hope good things will magically manifest themselves. It takes a concerted effort to lobby for our City and region because there are 189 other municipalities and regional districts in BC facing similar issues and pressures. We need UBCM to make our ideas known and put our best foot forward if we want to impress upon the Province for funding or to take notice of important initiatives for the City of Penticton.

Council and I do our best to be strategic with our approach to attending seminars and lobbying ministry staff to ensure we cover the most ground and get the most out of the conference. I would summarize attendance at UBCM as time and money well spent which will benefit our community and region.