Municipal financing will once again be on the agenda at the Union of British Columbia Municipalities (UBCM) Convention, to be held in Vancouver next week, bringing together officials from both local and senior levels of government to tackle the issues currently facing communities across the province.
Top priority for the more than 2,000 delegates expected to attend the five-day conference this year will be finding practical approaches towards strengthening the local government finance system in B.C. A policy paper will be presented at the convention for potential endorsement that provides a blueprint for long-term reform of the finance system.
According to the policy paper, entitled “Strong Fiscal Futures: A Blueprint for Strengthening B.C. Local Government’s Finance System,” municipalities face increasing infrastructure and service financing demands, many of which are predetermined by senior levels of government. The paper proposes “a gradual move towards a reduced local government reliance on property tax, creating both a fairer and more responsive tax system.”
Mayor Nancy Wilhelm-Morden said she expects discussion on the policy proposal to be “interesting,” and that the number of recommendations provided within are “in recognition of the fact that our funding sources are limited while our costs continue to escalate.”
Whistler’s mayor and representatives from the 13 other Resort Municipality Initiative (RMI) members in B.C. will also be meeting with the province’s Minister of Jobs, Tourism and Skills Training Shirley Bond to discuss how funding was used over the previous year. The province provides incentive-based funding to eligible resort municipalities to help maintain and grow a robust regional tourism economy.
“It’s a chance for us to all compare notes and inform the minister of the success of our program, and of course it’s a new minister this year, so it will be an important meeting,” Wilhelm-Morden said.
Shortly after meeting with the tourism minister at the 2012 convention, the municipality secured over $34-million in RMI funding from the province over a five-year period.
While the RMOW won’t spearhead any resolutions at this year’s political summit, Whistler will be supporting a number of resolutions introduced by other municipalities, said Wilhelm-Morden. She indicated Whistler will support a resolution introduced by the Alberni-Clayoquot Regional District that asks for consideration of additional provincial funding for search and rescue teams in B.C. The issue has received considerable attention in both local and national media in recent weeks with a report from the B.C. Search and Rescue Association coming down the pipes requesting more money for training and a streamlined system for obtaining necessary provincial funds.
With the resort hosting the 2014 UBCM Convention, Wilhelm-Morden said council will be paying special attention to next week’s programming and host venue, the Vancouver Convention Centre, in order to deliver an exceptional experience to the thousands of delegates that will be in attendance next September.
“Another very important reason for going to this conference is to really have a look at what the programs are, what programs are available for (delegates’) spouses and how big this conference is,” she said. “You’ll remember that last year only myself, (councillors) Jack Crompton, John Grills and (Chief Administrative Officer) Mike Furey went, so this is a chance for the other councillors to see just how darn big this conference is.”
Whistler hosted the 2010 UBCM Convention, which, according to Tourism Whistler, generated more than 3,400 room nights, making it the busiest September in the resort on record.
Wilhelm-Morden will be joined by all six municipal councillors this year, and expects it will be a worthwhile experience for the elected officials.
“For anybody who’s never held political office or hasn’t been to these kinds of conferences, you may think ‘Oh man, is there any value in people going to these?’ And there really is. Last year, just to be able to rub shoulders with other elected officials and learn about best practices, challenges facing other towns and cities, and meet with the assistant deputy ministers who were there. It really is in invaluable,” she said.
The 2013 UBCM Convention begins Monday (Sept. 16) and concludes Friday (Sept. 21) in Vancouver.
Visit www.ubcm.ca for more information.