UBCM 2017! So many Meeting with Ministers and Staff. Stay tuned all week.

The Full UBCM 2017 Report is done!

Preamble

We have a ton of meetings this year with Ministers! Here is my calendar right now!

In order the meetings we have are:

  • Ministry of Environment – on Climate Adaptation measures, flooding, and setting up further meetings and on support for new Open Burning Restrictions
  • Ministry of Public Safety – A meeting our CAO will be having with Ministers
  • Sean Grant from the Ministry of Finance
  • Brian Bennet of Infrastructure – discuss grant opportunities
  • Ministry of Forests Lands Natural Resources and Rural Dev. – on Open Burning Restrictions and on Community Forests.
  • Jackie Hunter of Small Business, Jobs and Trade Ministry
  • Scott Fraser Minister of Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation

……….

Sunday September 24

Here is the policy booklet to see all of the resolutions.

Monday September 25  meeting with George Heyman Minister of Environment and Climate Change Strategy.

We got started bright and early this morning 9:40AM with a 20 minute meeting with Minister Heyman.

We addressed issues around sea level rise, particularly planning for how our major infrastructure assets like the sewage lagoon, will be protected from rising sea levels. We also mentioned the flooding that has occured along the river from recent extreme weather events that have become all too common. Thanks to the raising of highway 4/river road after the Tsunami, the city has been protected mostly….. more coming….

…. back from a quick Taco Time lunch! ….

Minister Heyman and his staff were very receptive and of like mind.  They reminded us of the federal and other grant funding available, particularly for emergency management. This is something the City/ACRD has already been in the process of doing so that was well received.

I won’t say more than that because you want to be sure that you don’t say things ‘out of turn’ when Ministers are involved. But suffice to say I think it was a short (they are all short!), but good meeting.

Marijuana

There were a number of morning sessions held. I was only able to attend a small portion because of the meeting with the Minister. However, I did get to the Marijuana session (on legalization for recreational use). I heard from what appeared to be someone familiar with the upcoming legal issues.

Basically we will have two regulations going forward, Medical, and Recreational Marijuana.

The crux of the advice from the individual speaking was that getting an early start on the regulations for Recreational marijuana would be a good benefit for local governments.  That means going through our bylaws, much like we did for medical marijuana, and ensuring they are appropriate and ready.

One thing he made very clear was that constitutionally, Medical and Recreational marijuana are very different.

Medical Marijuana use is protected by the constitution so we cannot make bylaws that would limit that use (even though currently, sale of medical marijuana from store front remains prohibited and is likely to continue to be).

Recreational Marijuana use is unlikely to be so protected by the constitution. So municipalities *will* have the option to prohibit sale outright.

I asked a question to the person relating to the fact that for all intents and purposes, the current Medical Marijuana retailers in Port Alberni and elsewhere are selling to recreational users. This is an open ‘secret’. So how can we have two regulatory regimes when on the ground, the public is treating the issue really as one and the same.

The problem here is the limitation of selling medical marijuana by mail order only.  As long as that limitation exists, it will create this strange situation where current dispensary are either going to be selling medical marijuana to recreational users illegally. Or, when it becomes legal to sell marijuana for recreational use, the dispensaries will change their signage, and sell marijuana legally, recreationally, but more than likely still be effectively supplying the medical market as well.

It really makes no sense. The speaker answered that he didn’t see a way around that at this point and it would be a matter of building a case to show that a marijuana dispensary was breaking the rules.  I difficult, and costly, course to take.

Personally I think we need to advocate that marijuana be treated the same across the board. Legalize the retail selling of it for all uses, then we can properly, and consistently regulate it on a local level.

That’s it for Monday morning.

Afternoon session:

Advancing Local Government and First Nations Relations

This was an excellent session where we heard of experiences by two government and first nation partnerships, one around Alert Bay and the other around Metchosin.

The Alert Bay example was about how the village and adjacent First Nation have formed an extremely close relationship. Since they are literally on an small island together they have developed a very practical working and even personal relationship where the Village and Nation staff and council work nearly as one.

They have joint council meetings several times a year where issues of concern are discussed, joint committees, joint planning, joint problem solving

Everyone on the Island (population under 1000) has a voice no matter if they are in nation or village.

The second example was Metchosin and Beecher Bay FN. They described a land swap and development agreement they reached along with Langford. Beecher Bay wanted to build/develop a residential project somewhere on their lands but the land they were considering was highly valued forested land the Metchosin community wanted to protect. Metchosin identified a parcel of land that was adjacent to Langford that was more suitable for development that they could swap with Beecher Bay. However Metchosin also is a completely rural community and does not support development so Langford offered to extend their boundaries to include the the developing parcel and then shared tax revenue with Metchosin.

We also had a very nice speech from Indigenous Relations and reconciliation Minister Scott Fraser.

“The Chilquotin decision is not an isolated decision”

The Minister spent a lot of time explaining how important the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP). He talked about adopting and embracing the UNDRIP in full. The rights in undrip are human rights. He aims to realize these rights.

“Free prior and informed consent means to be involved from the start of a development process.”

Have to be included from the start. UNDRIP is not a threat to development. The minstry is working on more flexible options for treaties including shared territories.

A portion of Gaming revenue may begin to be shared with First Nations. As is done in other provinces.

Big part of reconciliation is culture and language and government will be investing in those programs.

That was it for the afternoon.

Tuesday!

Uncivil Civic Engagement

Continuum of Incivility: Negative Behaviour —> Verbal Aggression —> Physical Agression

 

The causes? Increased polarized political parties and highly polarized media. USA is an epicentre but B.C. has very polarized media as well.

Leads to total policy gridlock due to lack of ability to compromise.

At local government level the engagement is much more personal and direct so can be very difficult.

—Strategy for local governments—

Procedures Bylaws that are clear and detail rules of conduct for council members and for public.

– Mayors have a statutory obligation to keep order during a meeting but there is no definition of “inappropriate” behaviour.

Absolute privilege (like an MP or MlA that can say almost anything in parliament) does not apply to City Council.

But we do have qualified privilege. As long as statements can be proven to be truthful.

There are also ways to have a court injunction against individuals if they are so disruptive and disrespectful and especislly if it is long term, agressive, and baseless.

Can Council itself pass a resolution to prohibit an individual frim attending meetings?

It is not a decided legal issue in B.C. but in Ontario the court has determined No. A court injunction is the only way.

—- More Ministry Meetings —

Later Tuesday Morning we had a meeting with Sean Grant, a director from the Ministry of Finance.

We were there to discuss what options we might have in order to address derelict or fallow buildings that plague our commercial sectors.  There was a suggestion that we might be able to advocate for a new class of tax but that tool was quickly shot down by Mr. Holmes as, in his words, the tax system is meant to be a neutral revenue device, it is not intended and it is bad policy to use it as an incentive or disincentive system.

Many of the other options are things we have already done such as tax holidays, façade improvement, bylaw enforcement, and Community Charter supported remediation (like we are doing with Arrowview).

One option that the Director suggestion was a Business Improvement Area.  This is something that, according to Councillor McLeman, has been tried in the past and not been very successful. But perhaps it is something we can try again.

There is also the option of the City beginning to borrow and invest in the City directly by purchasing buildings of concern and then redeveloping them.  This would not be a cheap solution, but it does provide the opportunity for the City and Community to engage in a fulsome planning process that we could then follow and attract developers into the City.

Tuesday Afternoon

In the afternoon we as council agreed that we would put in the effort to bring the Martin Mars issue back to the UBCM.

I’ve created the motion and FAQ that we will be distributing to the UBCM delegates before we bring it to the floor likely on Thursday.

Here is the 2017 Resolution and Fact Sheet.

Alberni Valley News has a story here.

I had 200 copies printed out and I and Council will be distributing them before the issue comes forward likely on Thursday (it ended up being Friday). On the same topic of Forest Fires I attended the “Leading Through Crisis: Flooding and Fires 2017”.  I live streamed the whole hour discussion.

It was very good. It was such an incredibly challenging summer in so many communities but what came through was the incredible work done by staff, councillors, volunteers and the public to ensure everyone was safe and supported during the crisis.

In the evening there were a number of receptions to attend most had to do with energy resources.

We went to a Coal industry reception, where they had the strangest promotional device I have ever seen.

An Apple, wrapped in a plastic box, with the tag line:
A is for Apple,
B is for BC,
C is for Coal.

Well… OK then.

We then went to the Clean Energy reception… which frankly is more my style.

The difference in marketing strategy for renewables versus fossil fuels was stark.. and more than a little humorous.  It actually turned out to be the highlight of the night.

Wednesday Morning

I started the morning at the Energy Sector Resource Breakfast which was attended by the Minister of Energy among many other ministers, MLAs and city councillors.

I have to be honest I thought it would be primarily focused on fossil fuel infrastructure, but while LNG was certainly still discussed and promoted to an extent, the breakfast itself was notably sponsored by Energex, which is a major renewable energy developer across Canada.

We had a good talk with one of their representatives about the opportunities available in Port Alberni.

Thats all for now. Meeting with Minister of Forest shortly about Community Forest.

Wednesday Afternoon

Our meeting with the Minister of Forests (and other things :)) Doug Donaldson went well. Councillor McLeman presented his concerns on our Community Forest and its need for more Annual Allowable Cut to bring it up to the amount that was originally intended (20,000m3 vs. 15,000m3).

After that we had our first Plenary session of the conference.

Here are some tweet highlights, the biggest highlight may been the silly test question.

I have a video of the really great Keynote given by Terry Milewski this morning all about fake news, Russia, Canada, the US and Facebook.  I will post it once I get to a place with good enough WIFI!

Here it finally is!

This afternoon I will be at the Provincial Cabinet Town Hall for Jobs, Resources, and Green Communities featuring no fewer than 6 ministers!

Wednesday Afternoon Recap

Had an excellent Cabinet Town Hall.  I was able to ask the panel of Ministers, specifically the Minister of Environment, Forests, and Jobs/Innovation, on the Open Burning Smoke Control Regulation that potentially deals with smoke in communities from open burning and slash burning.

All three Ministers spoke supportively both on addressing the health and air impacts and on the aspect of ensuring that the fibre in the forest is used in innovative ways (or even left, in a fire safe way) than simply ‘going up in smoke’.

The Minister of Environment and Climate Change Strategy (George Heyman) also mentioned that the Carbon Tax may begin to apply to the open burning context. This would really change the economics.

The Minister of Jobs and Innovation mentioned that they are developing an office, or a fund, (I don’t remember exactly :)) to support innovation in the forestry sector. His words were that “tech is not just in the big cities” and also happens, and needs to happen in small cities and resource management.

Efforts on the Martin Mars resolution continued.

Including with an interview with CBC, which was set up through Twitter of course… because it’s 2017.

Wednesday night was full of receptions and networking including with the  Premier itself.  I generally avoid the whole “look at me with X” thing… but Premier Horgan is a pretty affable person and I’ve talked to him at past conferences.  He’s funny and remembers you, and always has a topical issue in mind when he here’s where you are from.

And unlike his predecessor, who was literally in front staged in front of a pre-framed backdrop with people lined up like a side-show at a carnival, the Premier was here mingling, beside the food, as much as a Premier can mingle when in a huge room absolutely packed full with other politicians.

So when I saw him a little ways away from me shaking hands and taking pictures I got Councillor Minions and we went over to say hi!  He talked about his parents cottage on Sproat Lake. 🙂

Crazy BUSY Thursday Meetings and Preparations for Martin Mars!

Thursday was quite the blur.

We had three meetings with different ministry folks.  I attended a couple sessions, and there was plenary resolutions to attend as well!

7AM Early Session

Bright and Early at 7AM I attended a session titled: “Wildfire Prevention and Mitigation in BC”.  Apparently Thursday morning is a tough one for folks because I was there with only about 20 other colleagues!

There was a lot of talk of course of the just-passed fire season where $544 Million was spent on fire suppression alone. Other than that though there was not a huge amount of new information on protecting communities.  The same programs are available.

8:30AM Interim Leader of the Opposition Speech

We then went down to the main hall to hear Rich Coleman speak on behalf of the Opposition.

He made some good points on helping the needy in our province and how that often means having to push through housing projects in the face of NIMBY forces because it is good for the community as a whole and rarely leads to the problems people associate with low-cost, low-barrier housing initiatives.

He also said some stuff that I disagreed with, surprise, surprise:

He railed against the campaign finance reform and picked an unfortunate line when talking about when he was first elected, “My friends helped me get elected.”.  Indeed, that is exactly what campaign finance reform is about. It should not be about who you know and how much money they can give you, it should be about what you say, and do, and how you present yourself to your constituents.

He also came out strongly against proportional representation:

Well, a few folks disagree.  It will be a very interesting referendum on proportional representation during next years Municipal Election! (October 2018)

Thursday morning Resolutions

After the speech we had a little bit of time to participate in Resolutions.

One of particular interest to Port Alberni was a resolution on Improvement Districts (like Cherry Creek) having access to grant monies.  The resolution passed:

 

We then had our meeting with Jackie Hunter of Small Business Jobs and Trades on economic development strategies, particularly around succession planning for small business.

I went and checked out the trade show… which was a little underwhelming this year.  But had a great chat with Dave McCormick of PAPA about the PATH project.  I actually had a number of positive conversations with people on PATH both during the conference times and at receptions.  It definitely seems to be on people’s radar as a positive thing for BC and Vancouver Island as long as it is done right. I even had a positive conversation about it with a rep who I believe was from Surrey Docks.  He was at the coal industry reception that I attended on Tuesday night.

We then had an excellent meeting with Scott Fraser, the new Minister of Indigenous Affairs where we talked about the City’s efforts towards Reconciliation.  The minister was of course very supportive and we hope to be working closely with him as the process moves forward.

And finally after lunch, Councillor Paulson, Mcleman and I met with staff from the Ministry of Forests to talk about flooding adaptation and the open burning smoke control regulation.  Staff indicated the resources that were available to us and some of the steps we could take, like LIDAR mapping the estuary in order to have a precise idea of how things are positioned.  Given that bout ACRD and the City talked about this issue on multiple occasions with multiple Ministry staff and ministers, I think we will be in a good position to create a broad, all-stakeholder, process to mitigate the flooding issues that continue along the Somass and will get worse with climate change and sea level rise.

We also talked about Open Burning and the new Open Burning Smoke Control Regulation that the Ministry of Environment has had on the books but not implemented.  The ministry staff person indicated that the Open Burning regulation may be implemented before the end of the year.  Fingers Crossed for cleaner air!

Thursday afternoon Flood Mitigation and Photocopying!

After the meeting with the Minister I went up to the session on Flood Mitigation… which was of course very topical to my just finished meeting with the staff.

I was there with Doug Holmes, the new CAO of the ACRD.

They talked about the risks, and that flooding is most expensive and most frequent of disasters and have gotten worse with extreme weather.  There has been one disaster each year in Canada since 2011 cost at least $1 Billion!

I also asked a question to the panel about whether their programs and initiatives are also focusing on the upstream effects.  The representative from the Fraser Basin Council (?) reiterated the importance of managing upstream land impacts in order to help mitigate flooding downstream.  But unfortunately they did not indicate any specific strategies on that front.

There is a “Consequence Classifications for dyking infrastructure” coming soon. They also mentioned a “Flood Hazard Areas Flood Hazard Guidelines.” which… upon some googling, looks quite interesting.  Here is the Flood Hazard Land Use Management BC website.

I left a little before the end of the session so that I could head up to Staples and run off 500 pages of Martin Mars resolutions that we would need to distribute before the Friday morning vote.

Thankfully there was time between that and the dinner to get into the hot tub at the hotel and soak some very sore feet!

The Thursday banquet was nice as it often is. I sat at a table with Councillor Minions with folks around the province including former MLA Bob Simpson who is now Mayor of Quesnel.  Sharie, he and I all had a very interesting bit of conversation on a whole host of topics from economic development to the Mount Polley mine disaster (the company is now being allowed to put its effluent straight into Quesnel Lake!!).

Friday Fun Day – Martin Mars and other Resolutions and Premier Horgan.

So Friday was the big day.  We were up very early distributing leaflets on the chairs.

We have to do that in order to ensure the delegates can be informed of the resolution before the vote. It has to have background information as well.

The UBCM delegates actually managed to power through all of the Late Resolutions, which was super impressive.  That does not happen often!

One was on allowing ranchers to assist more directly with wildfires when it affected their property and another was asking for a strategic review of fire strategy (which, who knows, may have implications for the Martin Mars.)

There was also a motion that was defeated on banning additional fracking in BC.

Finally, there was a motion that was accepted on having government consult the public to possibly end Daylight Savings Time so that the clocks never went back and forth.

With the Late Resolutions then done, I had my opportunity to present the Martin Mars motion.  I spoke first to the motion. Here are my prepared words:

Three things have changed delegates since this body last passed a motion on the Mars in 2014

Number One, incredibly, even though we all surely didn’t think the fires could get worse, along came 2015, and along came 2017  with unprecedented fire activity and impact on our province and unprecedented $544 million dollar cost in regions across the province and provincial fire resources absolutely maxxed out.

Number Two in 2014 we passed a simple resolution unanimously for government to bring the Mars back into the fold, with no expectations of change on the company’s part. This year with this resolution we can urge the government AND the company to work together. The company is willing to make the required changes that would upgrade the aircraft and address many of the concerns of government if government shows its commitment in the long term.

And the Third key fact that has changed delegates is of course the government itself.

So today I ask you to urge the NEW government of B.C. to give us all a definitive answer on whether we will be able to see these planes, upgraded, to help our province, help our communities, and help all of the other firefighting assets not because it is better but because it is one more tool in the toolbox, to help during the next worst season on record and for decades more. Thanks you for your support of this motion.

After a Con speaker came forward, the Mayor then had a chance and spoke to the sound of the Mars coming overhead and comforting those who needed it.

There were multiple speakers after that. One Con speaker brought up the legitimate concern that the UBCM was directing the province to enter into a contract with a specific company.  However, given the nature of the firefighting business, this was a big of a special case.

Director Jim Abrams (who is well known for his advocacy around BC Ferries) also spoke strongly in favour of the Martin Mars.

After a long debate, the question was called and the vote was made.  Delegates held up their hands, first for, then against. The Chair was not satisfied with the vote and so asked again for hands (cards) up for… and then against.  She then called the motion result as defeated.

That was the end of that process. It was a disappointment certainly, but it is also not the automatic end of the fight for the Martin Mars. The issue has now been raised with government so they could still choose to at least bring the issue forward.

The final event of the day, and conference, was the speech by Premier John Horgan!

I recorded nearly the entire thing, I only missed about 30 seconds of the beginning when he was making some hilarious jokes about Donald Trump and Sean Spicer.  He’s a very funny speaker. I was telling someone today that I have never Not laughed out loud when he was giving a speech.

He is also very good at bringing real policy into his speeches and he revealed a number of things that were subsequently reported in the press.

Here is his speech as it was live broadcast on my Facebook page.

That’s all I have from the UBCM for 2017. It was a very productive conference, the most productive yet. I feel like I got a lot more comfortable speaking to people and asking questions to Ministers and staff both at the mic and at the one on one meetings. I am glad we have 1 more year before the election to try to move on some of the things that were discussed at the conference.