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Municipal leaders convene in Victoria

Sep 16 2012

Metchosin wants marijuana legalized. Saanich is calling for emailing of tax notices. Victoria wants more equitable police funding.
Those are just some of more than 200 resolutions up for debate Sept. 25 to 28 at the Victoria Conference Centre as about 1,000 local government politicians from around the province arrive in Victoria for the annual Union of B.C. Municipalities Convention.
For some community leaders, the cut and thrust of debating resolutions on the convention floor is what it’s all about. For others, it’s an opportunity to shake hands and meet face to face with provincial movers and shakers — something that municipal politicians from Greater Victoria might take for granted but those living farther afield relish.
“People will choose where they want to be” during the convention, said Victoria Coun. Chris Coleman, who is also a member of the B.C. caucus to the federal Federation of Canadian Municipalities.
Some want to focus on the wording of motions and amendments, while others — including Coleman — prefer to take part in tours and study sessions.
Saanich Mayor Frank Leonard said he encourages local colleagues not to book meetings with cabinet ministers during the conference to give officials from outside the capital region better access.
“There’s almost a speed-dating look to these meetings,” Leonard said. “Every 15 minutes, the minister is meeting with a different delegation. So you have to know what the ‘ask’ is and get to it quickly.”
Both Premier Christy Clark and Opposition leader Adrian Dix will address the delegates.
“They’ll be speaking well beyond us to the cameras that are in the room because it’s a great opportunity for them to try to reach the entire province,” Leonard said.
He noted that the timing of the convention — the last before the provincial election in May 2013 — makes it more interesting.
“Obviously, you want to catch up with some new cabinet ministers and see if there’s a couple of files you can see through to completion in the next few months,” he said. “At the same time, you’ll be looking for some opposition critics to try to get to know them by first name.”
The convention also features clinics on topics ranging from tsunami debris to spotting drug houses to responsible gaming.
Victoria Mayor Dean Fortin said he was pleased to see more than 140 people had already signed up for a mayors’ caucus to push for regularized funding for infrastructure.
Cities use five-year capital plans, Fortin said, but many plans rely on annual funding from senior levels of government, which have different priorities. Fortin said he would like to see an indication of how much funding will be received every five years, and work with the government to determine regionally significant projects to which funds can be applied.
 Maurine Karagianis, a former Esquimalt councillor and current NDP MLA for Esquimalt-Royal Roads, called UBCM conventions an “enormously important”  opportunity for municipal leaders to compare notes and to present their concerns to provincial representatives.
“All provincial leaders should be there to listen to mayors and hear what they want,” Karagianis said.
bcleverley@timescolonist.com

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