Union of BC Municipalities (UBCM) annual convention 2014 in Whistler, Sept 22-26: Some thoughts

(Adapted from CityHallWatch.ca)
UBCM logo(Updated) The annual convention of the Union of B.C. Municipalities runs from today until September 26, 2014, in Whistler. On Twitter, follow #ubcm.

The convention is an opportunity for politicians and municipal staff from around the province to get together and discuss common concerns. Local government officials take the opportunity to approach provincial ministers in meeting rooms and hallways to get a few words in on local issues and infrastructure funding.

Besides presentations and meetings, the adoption of resolutions is an important part of the meeting. In total, 159 resolutions were proposed this year by the June 30 deadline (others came in later and printed separately). Click this link for this year’s proposed resolutions, which range broadly: BC Ferries, legislative changes, pipelines, secondary suites, derelict boats, cellphone accidental 911 calls, party buses, LNG, and more. If the UBCM passes a resolution, its committees look at ways to address the problem collectively.

Whistler villageThe program of the meeting is available online here. The CBC’s Rex Murphy is one of the keynote speakers. This meeting is amid campaigning for the Nov. 15 municipal elections, so some local politicians have canceled or will shorten their participation at the UBCM convention this year. Premier Christy Clark is set to address the convention on Friday.

A hot topic this year is the main policy paper, entitled Socioeconomic Impact Analysis of BC Ferries, which has received some push-back from the Provincial government.

CityHallWatch has some concern about the accountability of the UBCM, in context of a resolution adopted last year calling on the Province to change from three-year to four-year election terms, despite public opposition to the idea. The BC Liberals used the UBCM resolution to justify the four-year terms, now a part of legislation. There was no evidence that local politicians had the mandate to vote for four-year terms, and the origins of the resolution from the Lower Mainland Local Government Association are murky.  The UBCM does not record who voted how on resolutions. Public accountability of individual politicians was therefore zero.

It is interesting to ponder what is UBCM in relation to the public. The UBCM Bylaws state that membership “consists of all cities, districts, townships, towns, villages, regional districts and other local governments within the Province of British Columbia …” But the “members” are represented by politicians — incumbent politicians. Yes, they are expected to represent the interests of their home municipalities. But from time to time, gaps could emerge between the interests of individual politicians and their citizens.

Perhaps the move to support four-year terms is one example of that gap. And similar to other inter-governmental “unions” and regional bodies (e.g., GVRD/Metro Vancouver and LMLGA) the UBCM is not directly accountable to citizens. Problems can arise. Public scrutiny is essential. Citizens in each municipality should look into procedures and practices leading to their UBCM representative’s involvement/voting in these bodies. This might also be an interesting topic for candidates in the 2014 civic election.

Another interesting angle is to look at who is sponsoring (i.e., “investing” money in, in expectation of some return) this year’s convention. See page 32 of the program. Prominent sponsors are government unionslaw firms that provide municipal services, and companies in industries related to fossil-fuel and other resource extraction (and consumption): Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers, Port Metro Vancouver, Spectra Energy, LNG Canada, FortisBC, New Car Dealers Association of BC, Imperial Metals, Canadian Energy Pipeline Association.

There’s also the Clean Energy BC (which appears to be the “Independent Power Producers Association of BC”), BCLC (BC Lottery Corporation), and Canadian Beverage Association. An eyebrower-raising sponser is the Consulate-General of the People’s Republic of China in Vancouver, hosting a reception (this amid questions about excessive influence — see The Province article on 17-Sept-2014: “Is China Influencing B.C. Politicians?”)

Below is a short list of media coverage leading up to this event.

What’s Squeezing Cities?
Is it bloated salaries or downloading from above that strains our local governments?
By Andrew MacLeod, 20 Sep 2014, TheTyee.ca
http://thetyee.ca/News/2014/09/20/What_Squeezes_Cities/

Pipeline plans high on Union of B.C. Municipalities agenda – (Times Colonist, 19-Sept-2014): http://www.timescolonist.com/news/local/pipeline-plans-high-on-union-of-b-c-municipalities-agenda-1.1382329#sthash.pNI2cbed.dpuf

C Ferries won’t get more government subsidies: Todd Stone
B.C. government rejects findings of Union of B.C. Municipalities report on BC Ferries cuts (CBC, 20-Sept-2014): http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/british-columbia/bc-ferries-won-t-get-more-government-subsidies-todd-stone-1.2772692

B.C. municipalities to focus on ferries at annual conference (Metro News Vancouver, 21-Sept-2014): http://metronews.ca/news/vancouver/1161687/b-c-municipalities-to-focus-on-ferries-at-annual-conference-2/

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