Thursday, October 18, 2012

UBCM Convention - September 2012

The Union of British Columbia Municipalities (UBCM) is an organization that all the cities, regional districts and now some First Nation communities belong to.  Every year they have a week long convention and this year there were representatives there from every local government.  The convention is considered very important to attend. Why?

Ministerial Meetings.  This year I took part in 3 meetings.  Two with the Premier – one related to increasing our bandwidth coming into the Bridge River Valley and one related to Economic Development in Pine Beetle affected areas. Both of these meetings were very positive and I felt the message was understood.     

I also attended a meeting with the Minister of Transportation and Forests.  Unfortunately this meeting, 10 minutes long, had too many SLRD “road” topics on it including the Hurley and Hwy 40.  I am going to request a follow up meeting with the Assistant Deputy Ministers of both these ministries.  The Minister’s were very receptive, there just was not enough time for the “discussion” piece.  I did find out though in a meeting with the Premier, that Min. Ben Stewart (who looks after the high speed internet file) new about our area and the Hurley Road.  Bonus!  I caught up with him at a reception later and it turns out he has camped in our area and is well acquainted with the Hurley.

2. Workshops, Panels and Forums.  The first of these started at 7:30 AM!!  I attended workshops on:

         Impact of grow ops on houses and the lack of a standard for remediation of these houses
  • 13,500 estimated grow-ops in BC in 2010, which works out to approx. one in every 137 houses being a grow op
  • Average  home grow op has 27.5 lights and is 24 times more likely to catch fire
  • Damage to homes from grow-op activity can be signficant and include altered support structures, wiring defects, mold, and pesticide residue
  • Legal or not homes were never designed to be grow ops
  • If a home has been a grow-op it affects insurability
  • There is no standard for remediation of homes that have had a grow-op in them
  • Link to RCMP Marijuana Grow Initiative:    This is an excellent and comprehensive website.
  • Link to Vancouver Sun interactive map of discovered grow-ops:
Decriminalization of marijuana and the impact of organized crime in our communities (see a theme yet?)

This was an excellent panel workshop that presented skilled professionals in various fields with differing views on how to tackle the marijuana dilemna.  Some points I jotted down were:
  • 70% of marijuana produced in BC is exported to the US in exchange for guns and cocaine.  That trade is primarily facilitated by organized crime.
  • The gang violence is primarily to control the commodity trade in marijuana
  • Organized crime is highly adapative and this is why despite so much money being spent on policing of marijuana, the business of growing marijuana continues to flourish
  • Americans are getting ahead of Canada on this file on a state by state basis, many states have initiatives on this November's ballot to decriminalize and regulate (or some combo of)
  • As an American police chief described it, he is keeping the lid on the garbage can as he chases it around the block
  • Medical marijuana licences are actually a grow op.  Health Canada does not have a single inspector in BC.    The local RCMP are not advised by Health Canada (who issues the licences) where the medical marijuana licences are located.  There is no inspection of the buildings these medical marijuana licence holders use to grow pot.  In addition, some medical grow-ops are also growing illegally.
  • Approx. 525,000 BC residents identify that they are current users, that is a huge number of people disregarding the law.  That disconnect is troubling.
  • There is a relationship with majijuana use in the young and schizophrenia developing
  • Use of marijuana by young impacts in many ways, just as alcohol and other drug use does
  • American police chief believes that education and awareness raising is critical and is the only thing that will change overall use of drugs and alcohol
  • A lot of money is being spent on policing and prosecuting marijuana possession
  • Regulation and an inspection regime will take steam out of the illegal marijuana trade

Internet Voting in 2014:  Below are a couple of links to presentations from this workshop.  This may be a very good way for an area like Area A, SLRD to encourage non-resident property owners to vote for the Regional District Director. 

Other workshops I attended:

 Cabinet panel on jobs and the economy
BC Ideas (go see it at
Municipal Finance

3. Resolutions.  When an issue is important to a local government they often pass a resolution and forward it on to UBCM.  It is then considered by the 1800 or so local government representatives that attend.  If it is passed then it becomes something that the UBCM Executive (Board made up of local government elected people) and Staff start following up and working on with other levels of government etc.  UBCM has an excellent and long standing reputation for moving various issues forward in a way that is very helpful to local governments.
The newsmaker resolution this year was:  Therefore be it resolved that UBCM call on the appropriate government to decriminalize marijuana and research the regulation and taxation of marijuana.  It passed by with about 70% vote.  In talking to other elected people it was felt the vote was mostly symbolic and a statement that the current regulations are not working.  Nearly 75% of the marijuana grown in BC is exported to the US and traded for cocaine and guns.  The organized crime related activity around this has escalated to significant levels in most communities in BC. Port Moody councillor Port Moody councillor Bob Elliott said his "quaint, safe city" has seen three gang-related murders in the past six months. He pleaded for support for decriminalization.  His words really swayed me although the arguments on both sides were excellent.  We have been pouring massive amounts of money into policing to try and control this and it isn’t working.  I added my voice to the majority calling for something different to happen. 
Although this was the resolution that caused the most fuss, many other very practical and relevant resolutions covering a huge range of topics were endorsed. You can see all the resolutions and whether or not they were endosed at:

4. Receptions, Lunches and Dinners.  Every day there are sponsored lunches, dinners and receptions.  Each evening between one and four receptions.  I think I attended 13 in all!  These are excellent opportunities to make connections with other elected people, provincial and federal cabinet ministers and other lobbyists representing various industries and organizations.

So, can you imagine walking into a reception with 1500 people all talking?  It is noisy and intimidating.  

I managed to move around and made a ton of good connections and had several key conversations.   Receptions were hosted by the Government of BC, the City of Victoria, Fortis BC, Epcor, B.C. Library Trustees, the Canadian Petroleum Producers, to name a few.   To access the CPP reception there was a gauntlet of protestors on the Northern Gateway Pipeline project.  The most novel food I ran across was mashed potatoes topped with curried chicken in a wine glass!!! 

Let me tell you my bed was SO welcome after a day like these.

Both Adrian Dix, leader of the NDP and Premier Christy Clark gave major speeches.  Then, much to my shock, at the very end I won the Door Prize, a $5,000 gift certificate for a cruise sponsored by the Port of Vancouver.  The trick will be getting Sal on a boat!

Attending the UBCM convention can definitely net many benefits for our area.  Victoria was a beautiful place for it however I really didn’t see much except the Legislature, the Victoria Conference Centre and my bed in the EmpressJ  For my first UBCM convention as Area Director, I was pretty happy with how I did and will learn from this experience and next year really go for it!