Where have all the politicians gone?
All the elected representatives from the City of Prince Rupert, Port Edward, the Skeen-Queen Charlotte Regional District and all their senior staff are all down in Victoria this week attending the annual meeting of Union of BC Municipalities (UBCM); a weeklong conference that allows local governments from across the province to come together and flex their political muscle as a group.
“Throughout the year it is the best opportunity for us to actually put forward our strategic priorities, to speak to people who are actually in a position to help us meet our priorities and our needs,” said councilor Anna Ashley.
The main event of sorts is the voting on resolutions that are submitted by individual communities.
This year Prince Rupert is introducing resolutions calling on the provincial and federal government to loosen the requirements on grant funding for infrastructure projects, to extend liability for marine accidents involving dangerous cargo (like bitumen) to both the carrier and seller of the cargo, that local governments’ tenders be exempted from the CETA free trade treaty with the European Union, and that the Joint Preparedness Emergency Plan and its funding be kept in place past 2013.
Port Edward wants the national repeat sexual offenders registry made public, and that federal infrastructure funding not be limited to public/private partnerships.
The regional district wants the provincial government to recognize the coastal ferries as part of the highway system.
If the other communities pass these resolutions, the UBCM will lobby the other levels of government to act on them in the upcoming year.
“It’s chance for us to speak to the resolutions that affect as all as a whole, because these are forwarded to the provincial government and it’s what they’ll be looking at when they formulate policy,” said Ashley.
The other big benefit of attending the UBCM conference is that it is typically well attended by provincial government and opposition politicians, including government ministers. This allows communities to schedule 15-minutes of face time with the person most able to fix a problem of theirs.
The regional district, for instance, has a meeting scheduled with premier Christy Clark and Environment Minister Terry Lake on Wednesday to discuss the ongoing problem of disposing of Japanese tsunami debris that has washed up and been collected on Haida Gwaii.
“We need a very firm commitment from the province that they are either going to remove this stuff or pay full price for the landfill tipping fees. I think we need to get that in place if we’re storing this debris for them,” Evan Putterill, the board member for Sandspit, said at their meeting on Friday.