Les Leyne: Ideas will abound at UBCM convention

Les Leyne mugshot genericIt’s not quite a TED talk, but the ideas will come fast and furious at next week’s Union of B.C. Municipalities convention.

Municipal councils have filed 166 resolutions they want debated at the annual week-long gathering. Nearly every aspect of modern life that is touched by government is covered in the concepts, from assisted living, as in, we need more of it; to Zeballos, as in the road needs paving.

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Only a fraction will wind up being debated, but the resolution book is an occasionally fascinating look at what’s on the minds of B.C. community leaders.

Some highlights:

• Unleash the hounds. Or to put it in government-speak: “Aversive conditioning of urban ungulates.” UBCM delegates have spent years wringing their hands about urban deer. Most of them agree they’re a problem, but there’s a mixed record of success when it comes to doing anything about it.

The Kootenay town of Elkford, which has been dealing with the problem for years, has a new slant on the issue. Its resolution notes that the Wildlife Act currently prohibits the use of dogs to harass wildlife as a means of reducing the urban ungulate population. It wants the UBCM to ask the province to develop a permit process for communities with urban-wildlife problems that already have bylaws and communication plans to use trained dogs “to further address the health and safety of both their residents and the urban ungulates.”

Oak Bay has also written a resolution on urban deer, saying hunting bans, favourable habitat and lack of predators have exacerbated deer-human conflicts.

It wants B.C. to provide more resources and build partnerships to deal with deer overpopulation. The community got a permit to kill 25 deer this year and managed to dispatch 11 of them, at considerable expense.

• Guilt trips. The city of Colwood wants to take the idea behind cigarette-pack health warnings and apply it to gas stations. The resolution is based on the idea that burning gasoline makes for greenhouse-gas emissions, and higher emissions raise the sea level and threaten coastal communities.

So Colwood is calling on the UBCM to support legislation “to require retailers of petroleum products to provide plastic sleeves (nozzle toppers) with warning labels on pump handles for all fossil-based liquid fuels.”

The resolution is one of several about oil in general. Vancouver wants the National Energy Board assessment of the Kinder Morgan pipeline scrapped and redone by the B.C. government. The UBCM has already demanded that, in a resolution last year that was ignored.

Sooke wants the UBCM to continue petitioning senior governments to stop the expansion of oil-tanker traffic through coastal waters, something the association has already repeatedly endorsed. The council put a question on last fall’s ballot about whether to oppose tankers and it was endorsed by more than a 2-1 margin.

• Seismic fund. Provincial funding for school seismic upgrading is closely watched, but municipal fire halls and emergency-response facilities also need such work, and there is no particular pot of money from which to draw. The city of Powell River is advancing an intriguing idea to start building such a fund.

For 94 years, B.C. has taxed property- and vehicle-insurance premiums. The money was originally meant to offset fire costs, but now goes into general revenue, to the tune of $450 million a year.

Dedicating a portion of the insurance-premium tax to a seismic-mitigation fund could raise $1 million annually for every local government ($190 million) to upgrade municipal facilities that would be needed after a quake. It could ease concerns that some emergency-response capabilities would not be available at exactly the time they are most needed, because the buildings that house them would have collapsed.

Various sectors have argued over the years about how the insurance-premium tax revenues should be used.

• AGLG adios. Considering how ineptly the Auditor General for Local Government’s office was launched, it’s surprising there’s only one resolution calling for the abolition of the $5.2-million-a-year outfit. The office survived the firing of the initial auditor, but North Saanich wants it axed, saying the responsibilities are already being handled.

lleyne@timescolonist.com

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