Prince Rupert city council defends UBCM attendance

A question of cost turned into a defence of the Union of British Columbia Municipalities conference.

A question of cost turned into a defence of the Union of British Columbia Municipalities conference during the early portion of the Sept. 30 Prince Rupert council meeting.

As part of the Committee of the Whole, Golden asked how much money was spent sending five members of council the conference in Vancouver. While Mayor Jack Mussallem told him to submit a Freedom of Information request to get that information from city staff. But what he said next clearly raised the ire of those in the chamber.

“You would hope government wasn’t run by handshaking, it was run by budgeting and the best project wins. Secondly, from a former member of council, he said,’gee, when you go down to UBCM all these meetings are empty. Everyone is out shopping’,” he said.

With that, hands went up around the council table.

“Each and everyone of us that went down there, we have our breakfast meeting and then go to every meeting there is. Believe me, we run from 7:30 in the morning until 7 at night,” said Councillor Nelson Kinney.

“I sacrifice a lot of my family time, a lot of my personal and I resent it when people accuse me of just handshaking and going out drinking,” said Councillor Gina Garon.

Other councillors noted the importance of the so-called handshaking and getting face time with provincial leaders.

“I know it does cost money to go to UBCM, but especially with the growth and development proposed for our region and that is happening, especially at this time, it is really important we have our voices heard … I am sure you are familiar with ‘the squeaky wheel gets the grease’, and if we’re not down there making our voices heard then we are missing out because others are,” said Councillor Anna Ashley.

“The handshaking, that is where it all happens. That is where the deals are done,” said Councillor Judy Carlick-Pearson.

Councillor Joy Thorkelson was the only member of council who did not attend the meeting, but said it was not because she doesn’t see the value in the meeting.

“I think going to UBCM is not a waste of time. It is where we get to talk to ministers, deputy ministers and the Premier. It is not an opportunity we often get here in the north,” she said.

“I think that going to UBCM is one thing that is a must for council.”

After pressing for further information and again being told to submit an FOI request, Mayor Jack Mussallem cut the microphone when Golden began to speak.