BRIEFS: B.C. municipalities’ conference resolutions

New executive

The Union of British Columbia Municipalities (UBCM) membership selected the 2019-2020 executive board at the close of its annual convention in Vancouver Sept. 27.

Sooke Mayor Maja Tait has been acclaimed UBCM president.

Coun. Brian Frenkel of Vanderhoof was acclaimed first vice-president after serving as second vice-president for the past year.

Coun. Laurey-Anne Roodenburg of Quesnel has been acclaimed second vice-president, after serving as director at large for the past year.

Coun. Jen Ford of the Resort Municipality of Whistler has been elected third vice president, after serving as director at large for the past year.

Tait said the new council would start work immediately.

“We will begin the work of analyzing the resolutions and policy discussions from our annual meeting and look forward to working on behalf of our local government and first nations members,” she said.

Municipal politician pensions

B.C. local government officials voted 57.3% in favour of asking Victoria to amend laws to allow local officials to contribute to the municipal pension plan scheme.

The resolution approved by Union of BC Municipalities members Sept. 26 would mean amending the Public Sector Pension Plans Act to permit local elected officials to participate in the municipal pension plan.

The Burnaby resolution said local officials invest time and energy while in office and noted similar officials in Quebec and Ontario are allowed to participate.

UBMC members have in the past approved contributions based on remuneration. The UBCM said Vancouver city councillors are permitted enrolment through the Vancouver Charter.

Needle cleanups

Delegates approved by 56.1% a Prince George resolution calling on the province to provide ongoing funding for the cleanup of needles and other drug paraphernalia.

The resolution said businesses, local governments and residents are increasing bearing the cost of such cleanups and that such items can be hazardous to communities.

“The low barrier distribution of harm reduction supplies, including syringes and other safe injection supplies, in communities across B.C. poses a significant safety and cleanliness concern,” the resolution said.

Victoria Coun. Jeremy Loveday said he would not support the resolution, saying such an approach only reinforces stigma against those battling addiction.

“That same stigma is killing people,” he said.

Some speakers called making municipalities clean up drug paraphernalia was a downloading of costs properly borne by the health system.

Disaster insurance

Faced with continuing recovery from flooding and then fire and drought problems in 2017, Grand Forks presented a resolution calling for insurance practices to change to allow faster recovery times for communities.

Local officials said many property owners and small businesses were unable to get insurance coverage, unable to access that coverage in a timely manner, or were denied insurance coverage by insurance providers.

The approved resolution called on the Ministry of Finance to review insurance practices in British Columbia to identify ways to insure property owners and small businesses during and after a disaster.

Delegates also approved a second Grand Forks resolution calling on the province to change the Disaster Financial Assistance program criteria relating to income requirements, eligibility, and insurance availability to better address the needs of rural British Columbia small business owners.

Clothing donation bins

Delegates voted to support a provincial ban on clothing donation bins until safe alternatives are certified by a professional engineer for bins not posing danger or safety issues for are available.

The Vancouver resolution said donation bins are an important part of zero-waste programs in many municipalities contributing to textile diversion, and deliver an important revenue stream for non-profit organizations.

But, the resolution said, bins have been sites of a number of deaths of people who have been trapped inside them. Since 2015, five people have died after getting stuck inside bins in B.C.

Election candidate self-funding

Delegates rejected a Langley City resolution to remove spending caps for candidates funding their own election campaigns.

The resolution said the under the Local Elections Campaign Financing Act, candidate contribution limits have been established capping on how much a candidate may contribute to his or her own campaign.

It said candidates wishing “to fund their own campaigns without seeking external campaign contributions are now extremely limited in how much they can spend on their campaigns.”

It suggested raising the cap from  $1,200 to $5,000. As an exception, an unendorsed candidate may contribute up to $2,400 to their own campaign in the calendar year of the election.

District of North Vancouver Coun. Jim Hanson spoke against the resolution, saying political office is not something a person should be able to obtain based on their ability to pay.

“Financial capacity shouldn’t influence success in life,” he said, advocating the maintenance of a level playing field.

Low-income transportation assistance

The suggestion that the monthly $52 transportation allowance that British Columbians are issued as disability assistance, is insufficient to deal with transportation costs for low-income people, UBCM delegates agreed.

They passed a resolution calling for Victoria to investigate avenues of providing free or further subsidized transit passes regardless of region to those on disability or income assistance.

The Burnaby resolution said transit is vital to many individuals in accessing health care, seeking employment.

Taxation of Legions

Delegates voted against a Victoria resolution that would have seen Victoria lobbied to change policy to exempt Legions from paying property taxes.

The resolution noted Royal Canadian Legion branches provide multiple community services as well as supporting those with past or current military service.

Cowichan Mayor Al Siebring said while he supports legions, moving the province into the area of tax exemptions on local issues is a slippery slope.

“What’s next? The Lions club? The Rotary club?” he asked.

Coquitlam Coun. Dennis Marsden said the power is already municipal and that Coquitlam already exempts legions.

“Every community has this authority,” he said. “It doesn’t need to be imposed by the province.”

Youth transit fares

A proposal to make transit free for those under 18 was rejected by delegates.

A Burnaby resolution said the issuance of fare infraction tickets disproportionately impacts low-income youths who may not have the ability to pay.

“It’s a burden we need to take off young people,” Vancouver Coun. Jean Swanson said.

Other speakers questioned why the UBCM would vote to approve the lowering of the voting age to 16 but would believe people the same age couldn’t be responsible to pay a bus fare.

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