Fernie and Sparwood governments reflect on UBCM

The Union of British Columbia Municipalities (UBCM) annual conference took place from Sept. 26 – 30 at the Victoria Conference Centre.

The Union of British Columbia Municipalities (UBCM) annual conference took place from Sept. 26 – 30 at the Victoria Conference Centre. There, local governments came together for five days of seminars and networking.

The UBCM was formed in 1905 and continues to provide a common voice for local government.

The annual convention provides local government leaders a platform through its resolution sessions to establish policy directions for UBCM’s engagement with the other two tiers of government

Fernie City Councillor Ange Qualizza believes that UBCM is of tremendous value for local governments.

“UBCM advocates on behalf of local governments, First Nations for policy change, regulation and programming that supports our needs,” said Qualizza. “This year over 2000 members attended our annual general meeting where we voted and discussed resolutions that this year I thought were very thoughtful, especially the conversations on parental rights, transgender rights and gender neutral language.

“These resolutions bookend dozens of resolutions about policing costs, policing requirements in rural communities, strategic forest management practices and a renewed call for a national housing strategy.”

Qualizza also signed up for the First Nations session called, Understanding the Village, where she was guided through a rapid history of colonization. This was heard through role playing stories from six elders who suffered serious trauma in residential schools.

“It is such a powerful workshop, that I truly believe all elected officials who are committed to building healthy and diverse relationships with their community should attend,” said Qualizza.

Both Qualizza and Sparwood Mayor, Cal McDougall agree that there is value in these conferences just from networking with other communities.

Sparwood Mayor, Cal McDougall attended the conference with four of Sparwood’s councillors.

“It was a really good conference,” said McDougall. For those of us that went, we were really busy. They start you at 7 a.m and you finish at 5 p.m. so it is a full day. It’s always good to get out there and talk to other municipalities in the same boat as we are and see how they are handling different things. Really the interaction with the other communities, in my mind, is just as important as some of the sessions that we attend.”

The District of Sparwood also received recognition for strong leadership in energy conservation, for their design, funding and delivery of a new home energy efficiency building permit incentive program resulting in over 50 per cent of new housing starts achieving EnerGuide80 or better in 2016.

“We were presented with an award from UBCM concerning the energy reduction that we are trying to accomplish,” said McDougall. “The award was Honourable Mention, there were only two awards given out for the whole province and the one was the award and the second one was Honourable Mention.

“It was concerning the work that we have done on our building codes and trying to encourage our builders and developers to build to what is called EnerGuide 80 which is more energy efficient homes. We are also offering, among other things, a portion of building permits reduced for building to that level,” he said.

This incentive is part of Sparwood’s commitment to reducing greenhouse gas emissions and addressing climate change. The UBCM awards single out municipalities from across the province and recognize their commitment to renewable energy, energy conservation, building retrofits, alternative transportation, land use planning and more.

“It was great to receive that,” said McDougall.

“UBCM was really busy as always,” he continued. “We had a meeting with the Ministry of Highways concerning a couple of issues, one was a piece of road that we were discussing that was downloaded to Sparwood a few years ago on the Corbin Rd. We are in the process of giving it back to the province so we were discussing that and what has to be accomplished before that can happen.

“We also talked a little bit about the funding grants from both the province and the federal government and when they think that is going to come back on track. We are looking at some grants for the intersection of Hwy. 3 and. 43. We were just generally making everybody know that we are still around.”