As thousands of delegates from across the province converge on Vancouver this week for the annual Union of BC Municipalities convention, it would be wise for British Columbians to pay close attention to news and views from the convention floor.
We are in an age of massive challenges - climate change, affordable housing, and the overdose crisis, to name a few.
Along with BC Indigenous nations, local governments are the best placed governments to turn these massive challenges into generational opportunities.
Why do I say this?
The vast majority of BC’s locally and regionally elected officials operate in non partisan councils and boards. They are not limited by specific ideologies. Whether progressive or conservative, local government officials are generally able to pull ideas and initiatives from anywhere, case by case, to best meet the needs and desires of their constituents.
In my 14 years on Kamloops City Council and my 8 years on the Thompson Nicola Regional District Board, I lost count of the number of times I saw elected officials who I know voted for different provincial parties find common cause to support what was best for the most people.
That, after all, is what government should be. A diverse group of elected officials, working with public servants, collaborating with each other to represent the views of the majority while protecting important minority rights.
Local governments officials are typically the most connected to their communities. They meet in or closer to the communities they serve and they are incredibly accessible to their constituents.
Indeed , it’s an insult to local governments to call them a junior level of government. And a huge mistake local government officials often make to refer to the provincial and federal governments as senior levels of government.
As the Legislature in Victoria and the House in Ottawa become increasing the victim of growing partisanship and soundbite politics, citizens can still generally depend on local governments to represent their communities and regions with competence, ethics and fair mindedness.
Indeed, BC local governments have led the charge on meaningful codes of conduct to govern how their operations. This work has been spearheaded by the staff and the executive of the Union of BC Municipalities (UBCM).
I had the privilege of being President of UBCM in 2018/2019 and served 7 years on the UBCM board. I had the joy of working with a board structured to be very representative of British Columbia’s diversity.
There are board seats for every region of the province, for small communities and for large communities, and for rural and urban BC. The size of the board, 21 members, is small enough that everyone can have a voice and large enough that many voices can be heard.
It is the UBCM board that oversees the agenda and the content offered at the annual UBCM convention.
Thus, the UBCM convention is where the diversity of this great province gathers every year and where the best approaches, ideas, and initiatives can be heard.
The convention week consists of learning, networking, policy making, advocating, and electing representatives to the UBCM board. I’ve attended 14 UBCM conventions and I never cease to be in awe of all the different sessions and the many incredible people in attendance.
Contrary to what we often hear, read, and see in the media, there is hope that British Columbians can tackle the tremendous challenges of our day. Local government officials have traditionally been our pathfinders to opportunities. Ask your favourite City Councillor, Mayor, or Regional District board member about their highlights from UBCM convention this year.