All photo credits: https://www.flickr.com/photos/ubcm
I feel like this might be the start of a few different posts about UBCM 2016, reporting back what I and Kamloops Council did there. The UBCM convention is alway packed with a lot of things. Here is the program for this year.
It’s always very hard to distill down a week packed full of learning, networking, reflecting, and lobbying into one blog post. The UBCM convention continues to be an extremely valuable opportunity for our community to talk about and learn about our own opportunities and challenges.
As a member of the UBCM executive, I have a bit of an inside view on how the convention is put together and implemented. Reflecting the great diversity in BC communities, it really needs to offer a great diversity of opportunities. It also offers opportunities for all these communities to work together on issues and opportunities we all share and care about.
The diversity of offerings at convention may be one reason why convention feedback is also very diverse. One person’s favourite feature is likely to be another’s least favourite. There are definitely many times of the day with overlapping events.
I had the great opportunity this year to help host sessions on climate action, housing, and strong communities.
Climate action is a topic of great interest to me and to many others at the convention this year. To sum up my impressions:
- the Province has put out a new leadership plan which will not meet emission reduction goals embodied in international agreements.
- the Province recognizes this, sees the new plan as a start, and recognizes they have much to do still. They are also waiting for the Canadian government to setup its carbon pricing scheme across Canada, so that BC will not lose any economic competitiveness vis a vis other provinces.
- there are certainly powerful groups who have not yet fully committed to move towards greenhouse gas reductions on the timeline necessary to avoid higher than 2 degrees centigrade global temperature rise.
- there are a lot of local governments who are doing amazing things to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and we need to do a better job sharing best practices. These local governments also face capacity issues in their greenhouse reduction work.
- there are some very interesting efforts to develop commercial technology that will reduce greenhouse gas emissions going into the atmosphere.
- its important to for businesses to see an economic profitable pathway in a new low carbon society. Huge potential for growth and profit in green and clean business.
- local governments are well placed to engage their community members on the importance of climate action and the opportunities and challenges in moving to a 100% renewable energy future.
Initial potential takeaways for Kamloops:
- Fortis BC reps may be interested in working with the city to create renewable natural gas through waste streams.
- City may want to look at opportunities to pilot innovative greenhouse gas reduction technologies in partnership with one of presenters at convention, the Institute for Breakthrough Energy and Emissions Technology - http://www.ibetccc.com/about
- City should continue to work in partnership with other local governments and the province and should also make sure we are meaningfully reducing corporate and community emissions locally.
I also helped host 2 sessions on housing and housing affordability. One session gave local government delegates an opportunity to provide input to the provincial submission on the national housing strategy and the other provided a lot of very practical information on how collaboration can lead to more affordable housing being built in a community. A summary on my impressions:
- local governments have quite a few tools to help facilitate the building of a diversity of housing. Its important to take a strategic approach based on an assessment of one’s own community’s opportunities and challenges.
- it’s a good idea to engage neighbourhoods on housing developments, especially if they might be controversial, well ahead of public hearings.
- New Westminister saw new rental housing increase dramatically through a combination of relaxing parking requirements and offering developers the chance to build more units if they included rental in their new developments.
- local government support key for provincial housing funding and resources.
- affordability crisis in lower mainland is causing people to consider Kamloops and other interior communities.
Initial potential takeaways for Kamloops:
- we may want to ask to meet the Provincial Housing Minister every year at UBCM to express willingness to work together to help create diverse housing opportunities for citizens in Kamloops and to touch base face to face on opportunities and challenges.
- we should continue to build on the incentives we already provide for people to build affordable rental housing.
Policing came up time and again in the resolutions session at UBCM, with quite animated debates. This was a bit of a surprise to me, as there wasn’t any real buzz before convention about these resolutions. There was a concern with ability to pay for RCMP contracts. Many smaller but growing communities are being faced with increased costs because as they reach a certain level of population, their contribution to policing costs increases quite dramatically. Rural areas don’t want to pay more for their policing and would not want to see costs shifted from municipal budgets.
Concerns that every local government shares is the uncertainty about certain RCMP costs in the future (eg. pensions, new BC HQ) and the shifting of DNA analysis costs to local government without any consultation from the province or the federal government.
- Kamloops has a healthy RCMP reserve fund and we continue to monitor the costs of the RCMP contract. Our big issue has been trying to secure all the RCMP members we have budgeted for. We met with the RCMP Deputy Commissioner at UBCM and he committed those members will be coming soon.