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Housing, community safety, climate change top of mind at UBCM convention

Cranbrook city councillor Wes Graham elected to UBCM executive for incoming annual term
Municipal and provincial leaders gathered September 18-22 in Vancouver for the annual UBCM 2023 convention. Photo courtesy Province of B.C.

Local government officials have fanned back into their home communities after attending the Union of British Columbia Municipalities’ annual convention in Vancouver last week.

The event, which included representation from elected officials in Cranbrook and across the East Kootenay, typically includes workshops on various local governance issues, meetings with provincial cabinet ministers and keynote addresses by provincial party leaders.

Cranbrook’s delegation to UBCM included councillors Wes Graham, Wayne Stetski, Norma Blissett and Ron Popoff.

“This year’s UBCM was really good,” said Graham, who noted there was record registration, while nearly half of the delegates were newly elected officials.

“There was some great content, everything from how to implement UNDRIP [United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples] and what it means for local government, to housing, to community safety, so there was very top of mind discussions and plenary sessions that give us a bit more insight and foster conversation.”

Stetski said he had a number of meetings with former colleagues who are now in provincial cabinet, while also meeting with BC’s Human Rights Commissioner to discuss the human rights of people living in tents in the context of BC Housing’s legislated responsibilities to provide housing.

“Much of the UBCM conference dealt with housing,” said Stetski. “Also dealt with climate change and the impacts on communities to improve infrastructure and preparedness to deal with fires and floods and other events that are accompanying the change in climate — there were a number of sessions on that as well.”

Stetski teased that there will likely be funding opportunities from provincial and federal levels of government opening up in the near future that municipalities will be able to access in to address some of those issues.

The federal government recently removed the five per cent GST on new rental construction, while the province is also expected to announce new housing-related policies shortly.

UBCM is also a chance for delegates to vote on resolutions that typically petition senior levels of government for action and support on various issues.

Cranbrook submitted four resolutions — provincial funding for new or upgraded infrastructure to facilitate affordable housing development; faster provincial approvals for development referrals, redirecting provincial RCMP unit resources to assist municipal detachments, and legislation for latecomer charges relating to off site improvements, such as a highway intersection.

Graham also successfully ran for second vice president of UBCM executive team and will serve in the role for the next year.

“I wanted to make sure the Kootenays had a strong voice at that level,” said Graham. “…We also look for provincial representation; we want to make sure the province is properly represented so it’s not weighed heavily in the Lower Mainland or weighed heavily in the North, which it rarely is.

“But it’s mainly to ensure we get a strong rural voice.”

UBCM is an organization that advocates for municipalities and local governance issues to provincial and federal levels of government.

“On behalf of Council, I want to congratulate Wes on his election to the UBCM Executive,” said Mayor Wayne Price, in a news release. “We, as Council, know he will serve and represent the interests of Cranbrook and other municipalities with dedication and integrity.

“Wes’ success is an acknowledgement that he is held in high regard throughout the Province.”

Trevor Crawley

About the Author: Trevor Crawley

Trevor Crawley has been a reporter with the Cranbrook Townsman and Black Press in various roles since 2011.
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