Local government elected officials are gearing up for the most important week of the year for the Union of B.C. Municipalities (UBCM) convention.
Held in Victoria from September 24 to 28, UBCM brings together 1500 delegates from every regional district and municipality in B.C. for a series of workshops, keynote speeches and resolution sessions.
Heath Slee, Director of Area B in the Regional District of East Kootenay, has spent the past year as president of UBCM.
Slee said the convention is vital because it gives mayors, councillors and regional directors the chance to have their communities’ concerns heard by provincial politicians.
“This is the time when delegates do a lot of their lobbying and arrange meetings with the various provincial ministries on a variety of topics, whichever are front and centre in their community,” said Slee.
The elected officials will discuss and vote on 205 resolutions on issues relevant across B.C. Those resolutions include a vote on decriminalisation of marijuana, asking provincial and federal governments for improved cellular coverage in rural areas, an appeal for more funding for wildfire prevention, and a request that local governments share in revenue from natural resources.
Each of these resolutions will be hotly debated by the delegates during the UBCM convention, Slee said.
Kootenay East MLA Bill Bennett, who was appointed Minister of Community, Sport and Cultural Development last week, will join other ministers and the premier to make keynote speeches at UBCM. Slee said that having our local MLA as the minister responsible for local government is an advantage for the East Kootenay.
“We are pleased to have Bill Bennett back in this ministry. It’s very significant for our communities, especially rural communities. He has a good understanding of the challenges that we have in providing services,” Slee said.
“It’s very helpful that Bill has past experience in that ministry.”
After 12 months as president of UBCM, Slee said he has a more in-depth understanding of the issues facing different communities in B.C.
“In my experience in the past year, throughout the province I think our issues are very similar to what other communities are experiencing,” he said.
That’s why UBCM is so important, he went on.
“We represent 100 per cent of the communities in the province. We have the research people that can delve into a problem and come up with all the accurate facts on what may be taking place,” said Slee.