Local leaders attend annual UBCM conference in Vancouver

Elk Valley Mayors, Councillors and RDEK Directors used the week to network with politicians and other municipal leaders.

(Left to right) Fernie Councillor’s Willard Ripley

(Left to right) Fernie Councillor’s Willard Ripley

Local leaders attended the annual Union of BC Municipalities (UBCM) Conference in Vancouver last week. Elk Valley Mayors, Councillors and Regional District of East Kootenay Area Directors used the time to network with politicians and other municipal leaders during the week of September 16-20.

UBCM is a recognized advocate in policy development and implementation, government relations, and external liaison communications with other groups.

The Convention opened by adopting a resolution to declare a year of reconciliation with First Nations across B.C.

“The harm done through Indian Residential Schools and throughout history and injustices perpetrated against aboriginal peoples have had a deep and lasting legacy,” said Sparwood Mayor Lois Halko. “By declaring this year of reconciliation, it is hoped that the importance of working together can be emphasized and that relationships will be built on mutual respect.”

For Mayor Halko, a highlight of the conference was a keynote address by Stephen Lewis who spoke of his experiences in Africa and of the horrors of the HIV/AIDS pandemic and of global efforts to address sexual violence.

“Lewis applauded B.C. for the Climate Action Charter and followed with insights on issues of water, sanitation and mental health and addictions,” said Halko. “He emphasized that efforts taken at the local level significantly contribute to global efforts. B.C.’s local governments were applauded for being agents of change and community strength.”

Many topics discussed at the convention included a special resolution on packaging and printed paper product stewardship, mobile business licensing benefits, property tax and the finance system for local government, existing and updated federal medical marijuana regulations, conflict of interest issues for elected officials and a proposed rural strategy for social and economic development of B.C.’s rural regions.

“Also of note was a discussion on local government election reform,” said Halko. “The body of UBCM did endorse a change to a four-year term of office.”

That recommendation will be put forward to the Ministry of Community, Sport and Cultural Development for consideration along with a proposed new Act for campaign finance.

“Attending such a conference enhances the knowledge required for elected officials to meet their obligations as a council member of our municipal corporation,” said Halko.

Mayors and councillors attended the RDEK group meeting with the Minister of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations (FLNRO), the Honourable Steve Thomson and his staff to discuss the results of an aerial survey of the Elk River done by the Water Stewardship Branch after the flooding in June and asked if assistance could be provided to address remediation work in the high risk areas.

“In the first two days of the conference there were forums showing success stories from different communities,” said Fernie Mayor Mary Giuliano.

“Monday had a mayor’s caucus with a presentation including information on the role and responsibility of a mayor as well as the power a mayor holds. As well, 14 resort communities met to discuss concerns and successes.”

“Elk Valley Mayors, Regional District Directors and Columbia Valley met with the Ministry of Transportation (MOT)  regarding the Elk River,” said Giuliano. “It has been a very productive conference.”

Mike Sosnowski, RDEK Area A Director, met ministers like Todd Stone, Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure and Steve Thompson, Minister of FLNRO, regarding flood recovery plans.

“I requested government assistance for funding to repair dikes, remove log jams and plan for the next high water,” said Sosnowski.

“The Ministers had been briefed by our MLA Bill Bennett and promised to work with us to help mitigate the flood damage. The fiscal cost of this mitigation is what poses difficulties.

“Mayor Guiliano, Councillor Iddon, CAO’s from Fernie and the RDEK and myself met with the new Minister of Community Sport, Art and Cultural Development, Coralee Oaks, regarding transitional funding for the West Fernie Project. I am hopeful that this project will soon be going to public information meetings.

“Networking with other directors and councillors from all corners of the province it is realized that we share many common concerns. I also listened to their structural problems and realized we are very fortunate in the Elk Valley and East Kootenay to have the quality of life we enjoy,” said Sosnowski.

During the conference the RDEK won an award for best practices in civic engagement with emergency communication for their “Regional Snapshot” created by Communications Manager Loree Duczek.