There is lots of policy ground to cover as Cranbrook Mayor Wayne Stetski and a few councillors head to a convention of municipal and provincial officials next week in Whistler.
Stetski will be joined by city councillors in Sharon Cross, Gerry Warner and Diana J. Scott as they meet with provincial ministers at an annual meeting of the Union of British Columbia Municipalities over the week to discuss local and province-wide matters.
Stetski has arranged to meet with a number of government ministers to discuss issues ranging from emergency shelters to urban deer.
One topic that will be on the forefront of the minds of many mayors across the province is addressing the costs of running municipal government.
“The major topic of what I want to talk about is fair funding for municipalities,” said Stetski. “As I’ve said many times, you take one dollar in taxes and 50 cents is heading to the federal government, 42 cents is going to the province, and 8 cents to municipalities.
“It’s not sustainable in the long run, we can’t continue to have property taxes and local fees and licenses as a way to finance local government.”
UBCM presented a policy paper last year—Strong Fiscal Futures: A Blueprint For Strengthening B.C. Local Governments’ Finance System—which the provincial government has refused to meet on, according to Stetski.
The report detailed a number of initiatives based off of five key principles. Some of the proposed changes include renewing the gas tax with the federal government, establishing a UBCM/Provincial management committee to oversee consultation and delivery of shared mandates, development of an infrastructure and community development bank and sharing of the pie when the provincial economy grows.
“There’s a lot of frustration right now among UBCM that the government hasn’t even agreed to take the time to meet and talk about the proposal that UBCM has put forward,” Stetski said.
Stetski also hopes to bring up the revised plan for the Salvation Army transition centre with Rich Coleman, the minister responsible for B.C. Housing. The latest update on the centre is a revised plan that is $10 million cheaper than the one they talked about last year, according to Stetski.
Always a controversial issue is the subject of urban deer, and Stetski is hoping to connect with Steve Thomson, Minister of of Forests, Lands, and Natural Resource Operations to brainstorm new ideas.
“Last year I had arranged a meeting with the Premier and the minister to talk about this and I was joined by a number of mayors around B.C.,” Stetski said. “Basically we’re making progress, but I want to make sure the ministry is still on side with that progress, which is potentially to try some translocation, site-to-site translocation of deer.”
Stetski is part of a mayor’s council for communities on Highway 3 spanning from Hope to Sparwood, and that council is hoping to meet with Todd Stone, Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure, to address some issues with the highway.
“The committee helps government decide where to spend money on Highway 3, based on the recommendations that we make,” Stetski said. “So there’s the physical improvements, but I also want to talk about marketing and promoting Highway 3 through British Columbia.
“Also, I would like to see the ministry come up with a standard for Highway 3 in terms of—over time and it would take a period of time—trying to ensure that there are safe passing lanes added to the highway every X number of kilometres.”
There’s also a meeting planned with the Minister of Agriculture to talk about support for the greenhouse industry in Cranbrook, Stetski added.