Mayors see value in attending UBCM in Vancouver
By ROY WOOD
The two mayors of South Okanagan towns concur that last week’s Union of BC Municipalities (UBCM) convention was worth the roughly $15,000 it cost each muncipality to send five-person delegations to the confab on Vancouver’s waterfront.
The annual gathering treats civic politicians from across the province to five days of seminars, plenary sessions, off-site study tours, policy discussions, speeches from provincial party leaders and more.
But the most important and valuable aspect, according to Osoyoos Mayor Sue McKortoff and Oliver Mayor Martin Johansen, is the opportunity to meet with and lobby provincial ministers on a variety of pressing issues.
“I think it’s very much worthwhile,” McKortoff said in an interview today. “It gives us a chance to find out what other people are doing and how other communities are dealing with things and it’s really the only time that we have the ear of the ministers. And for us to have six ministerial (meetings) was pretty good.”
Asked if Oliver got its money’s worth from the event, Johansen echoed the view of his southern counterpart: “I believe so, yes. For sure. Particularly in consideration of the meetings with the ministers. … to go to one place and have 8 meetings and be able to bring your issues to the table. We get value out of it because we are well prepared to talk about those issues.”
Among the highlights McKortoff mentioned was a meeting with Selina Robinson, municipal affairs minister, about the future of water councillors and a possible expansion of the town to include all or part of the Osoyoos rural area in a district municipality.
The town is also asking that ministry to fund a governance study that might lead to creation of a district municipality, similar to Summerland and Peachland, which would include the town and some of the surrounding rural area. “It’s worth looking at because we don’t have a lot of space left in the town,” McKortoff said.
Other cabinet members the Osoyoos delegation chatted up included:
- Doug Donaldson, rural development minister, on the necessity of the town continuing with milfoil cleanup in Osoyoos Lake;
- Education Minister Rob Fleming. “We always go to see him because … we want to keep our high school,” said McKortoff. If there are going to be change in the mandates of rural school boards “we would certainly like to be included in that and not just be told;” and
- Solicitor General Mike Farnworth. In a joint meeting with Oliver about better funding for victim services in the two communities. They are seeking funding for a full-time staffer.
At the top of Johansen’s list of accomplishments for the week was a meeting with Agriculture Minister Lana Popham over ongoing efforts to acquire funding for the Gallagher Lake Syphon repair.
“We got to the point where they really understood the economic impact for the South Okanagan if the syphon were to fail (and they have) a good understanding of the challenges Oliver faces trying to take it on by ourselves,” he said.
The town received assurances that the previously promised $5 million remains on the table and a commitment from the province to work with the town and the federal government once the national election is over.
The province is now aware that Oliver wants to get on with the project and sees it as a capital priority for the 2020 budget.
- Meetings with Farnworth and Attorney General David Eby around the RCMP, focusing on the increased cost to the town once it reaches a population of 5,000 and the possibility of regulation change and extra funding in the areas of nuisance properties, prolific offenders and victims’ services;
- A commitment from Health Minister Adrian Dix that the province continues to see the South Okanagan General Hospital and its emergency services as a top priority;
- A commitment from Robinson that the province will continue to tailor affordable housing programs to meet the needs of the communities in which they are undertaken; and
- Encouraging words from Eby about the prospect of exploring the current rules and regulations to make secondary wine-tasting sites feasible. These are off-site tasting rooms used by more than one winery.
The mayors were each joined by three members of town council and their chief administrative officers. Councillors Dave Mattes of Oliver and Brian Harvey of Osoyoos did not attend.
The roughly – $15,000 estimated cost for each town is based on a $700 registration fee for each attendee, $400 for car travel to Vancouver, $250 per night for hotel rooms near the Vancouver Convention Centre, $100 per diem for councillors, plus miscellaneous expenses.
The 2020 UBCM convention will be held in Victoria in late September.