Every September, councillors, mayors and regional directors from around British Columbia gather for a week-long convention organized by the Union of B.C. Municipalities. It’s an opportunity to get re-energized, network and attend workshops on topics affecting local government.
We share ideas, discuss best practices, and learn about new legislation.
In addition to professional development (something we all need to be effective and innovative leaders), a key component of the convention is the “resolutions for consideration.”
Municipalities may put forward resolutions on anything from tax exemptions to banning plastic bags to marijuana legalization.
Just like we do locally, resolutions are tabled, debated and voted on by members.
If a resolution passes, it gains credibility and may be used to influence provincial and federal legislation.
UBCM also offers local politicians the chance to meet with provincial ministers.
Municipalities can request meetings with them and/or opposition critics. If successful, we have 15 to 30 minutes to make our pitch.
During this time, councils may update ministers on projects already underway; request money for something new or discuss future partnerships.
And just because we ask, doesn’t mean we’ll get.
Councils often have to go back year after year with the same request before deals are signed.
In previous years, Summerland councils successfully lobbied the province for help on projects such as the Garnett Valley Water Separation Project.
Work that one council does can positively affect councils down the road.
That’s why we go with a list of ideas – both short- and long-term.
And the wants aren’t always sexy.
For example, this year we’ll ask the Minister of Community, Sport and Culture to help pay for a “grit removal” infrastructure project at Summerland’s sewer treatment plant.
We’ll also be meeting to discuss education; economic development initiatives (rural dividend fund); and the Lakeshore Pathway project.
In some cases, if one councillor is more familiar with a topic, they will partner with the mayor to give the presentation.
However, it’s important that we’re all there to show strength and support. Last year, a few ministers mentioned they were impressed by our council’s diversity.
Finally, once again this year I’ll be attending a networking event for “young elected officials.”
It’s a great opportunity to be among my peers and workshop common issues.
Last year, we talked about how to engage our generation of voters; the rising cost of housing; and the environment.
How can we best plan for greener, more vibrant and economically diverse communities?
We all know the decisions we make today will affect us in 10, 20 and 30 years.
Many of us ran because we wanted our demographic to be represented; however, we also have unique challenges balancing our careers and family life with council responsibilities.
UBCM is both an exciting and exhausting week. It’s a lot of prep work for council and District staff – but worth the effort. I look forward to bringing back new ideas, strengthening relationships for Summerland and proudly representing our town at the provincial level.
UBCM is Sept. 26 to 30 in Victoria. For more information check out www.ubcm.ca.
Erin Trainer is a Summerland councillor. The views expressed by the author are hers alone and do not necessarily reflect council policy.