Penticton mayor Andrew Jakubeit said it was important for all six city councillors and himself to attend the annual Union of B.C. Municipalities Conference, which wrapped up last Friday.
One of the most important reasons for attending, he said, is getting face time with some of the provincial government ministers and their staff, both in formal, arranged meetings and bumping into them in hallways and receptions.
“You can bend their ear for 30 seconds or five minutes, some conversations even longer,” said Jakubeit. “It allows for them to be a bit more candid.”
Jakubeit said the meetings they had –— only two this year, one with labour minister Shirley Bond and another with Peter Fassbender, minister of community, sport, cultural development — were productive.
“I think there will be some positive outcomes in the next few months that we can unveil to the community. I am fairly confident they saw the benefit or our proposals,” said Jakubeit. “Dan (MLA Dan Ashton) was also there and he has been pushing hard. He has also helped to arrange meetings throughout the year as well.”
Networking with senior government officials and peers in other communities is a major part of the conference, but Jakubeit said other parts could be improved
“I still think there needs to be a bit more of that professional development portion for the conference,” said Jakubeit. “I think there is a great opportunity when you have close to 190 municipalities or districts represented there to make presentations that they can apply to their regions or communities.”
Having all council members attending, said Jakubeit, gives Penticton a chance to cover more bases.
“We don’t all go there holding hands, we sort of divide and conquer,” he said. “With me being vice-chair for the regional district there is a lot of meetings I went to; you obviously can’t be in multiple places at one time so having a variety of members of council there is a good thing.”
That gives other members of council a chance to add to their practical experience, said Jakubeit, whether doing presentations or participating in other ways at the conference.
“It is really the only opportunity that we get to meet our colleagues around the province and a chance to network and lobby on behalf of the community. I think it is a good investment.”
Q&A with mayor and council:
What did you do at UBCM? What did you take away from UBCM? Has your perspective changed on any aspect of city governance?
EDITORS NOTE: Coun. Tarik Sayeed did not provide answers to the Western News.
MAYOR ANDREW JAKUBEIT — UBCM was very busy as I attended 13 meetings with cabinet ministers and the Premier on behalf of the city and as vice-chair of the RDOS. I appreciated that MLA Dan Ashton also attended those meetings to help validate and lobby for our concerns. I would summarize these meetings as very productive. I also attended seminars on growing B.C.’s creative economy; B.C.’s input to a national housing strategy, strong economy and jobs; and how collaboration can create affordable new housing units. Outside of the formal meetings and seminars, there was also opportunity to get some face time with a few key ministers and their staff for some candid conversations plus an opportunity to voice concerns and issues facing our community.
One of the highlights was keynote speaker Dr. Samantha Nutt, award-winning humanitarian and executive director of War Child Canada, and her perspective on four themes that have served her well in the struggle to move her organization forward: ignoring the blowhards; if no one is listening don’t shout -change the message; what drives you; if it’s hard, it’s because what you are doing is important.
UBCM is an opportunity for professional development and networking with other council members and directors from areas around B.C. on their issues, triumphs and solutions. It is reassuring to some degree to hear from other communities that also grapple with contentious issues, “passionate citizens,” and people resistant to change but open to criticize without all the facts or desire to obtain them. The nature of politics is volatile and you are only as good or popular as your last vote, but we did sign up for this and it is part of the job. At the end of the day, we all have good intentions to move our communities forward and any chance to learn, network, share ideas and lobby on behalf of the city is important and time/money well spent.
COUN. CAMPBELL WATT — At UBCM I attended a number of clinics and forums (including the mid-sized communities forum that touched on issues such as the “grey” area of medical cannabis) as well as attended the resolutions sessions in order to vote on issues that will be addressed by UBCM in the future. We also met with two ministers on various topics trying to get funding and/or support in our community. I also attended some networking events where I spoke to a Victoria representative about the issue of homelessness and some of the things they have been faced with. I also spoke with representatives of some major companies to see if I could lobby on our city’s behalf to be sure we are always moving forward with things like technology.
I am not sure my perspective changed for our local government but it changed my appreciation of how many other municipalities seem to have the same struggles and concerns that we do. As far as what I took away, I would say there are many takeaways from such a jam-packed conference but one of my biggest ones from UBCM was from a clinic on short term rentals, as it was something I made a notice of motion on not that long ago.
COUN. ANDRE MARTIN — I attended a number of panel sessions such as; infrastructure funding for municipalities and regional districts, the new marijuana licencing/zoning other municipalities have put in place and how it is working and Prince George’s process and results on dealing with derelict buildings and properties. Plus, plenary sessions where we voted on the resolutions brought by the various municipalities and districts and special meetings with two ministers specifically on Penticton topics as well as excellence awards where the city and RDOS were nominated. And addresses by the three provincial party leaders and Dr. Samantha Nutt, which was very emotional and inspiring.
The biggest takeaway for me was confirmation we are on the right track with having an Asset Management Plan in place where many others don’t. Funding for infrastructure from other levels of government will happen much more quickly with this in place laying out what we face as taxpayers over the coming years and what should be prioritized etc. In terms of governance, we must continue down the road of shared services and look to ways of expanding our services outside of Penticton.
COUN. HELENA KONANZ — While at UBCM last week I attended many forums, panels and workshops. Though there were a variety of issues presented, there were four major topics that resonated throughout the conference: infrastructure deficits, the sharing economy, the housing crisis and marijuana dispensaries/compassion clubs. All of these sessions were led by experts in their fields and municipal leaders, and were extremely informative and insightful.
As a member of the executive on SILGA (Southern Interior Local Government Association), we met with quite a few ministers, including the Minister of Education, Mike Bernier, on the future funding formula for education, and Minister of Environment Mary Polak, on continuing and enhancing the quagga and zebra mussel controls.
Most notably, Penticton city council met with Shirley Bond, Minister of Jobs, Tourism, and Skills Training. Council has met with the minister many times at UBCM in the past few years concerning the issue of attraction and retention of skilled labour. She has since attended key stakeholder meetings in Penticton, always with the support of MLA Dan Ashton. Last year, in response to these UBCM requests, our economic development office landed a provincial grant to run the 2015 South Okanagan Labour Market Research Project. With this research data in hand, council met with her last week to ask for a grant to go towards a pilot program to build a centralized and localized web-based job board. The minister was extremely positive during the meeting, and her staff will be following up with us in the next couple of weeks to work out the details of this newest request.
COUN. MAX PICTON — UBCM is a fantastic opportunity to connect with other municipal leaders around the province and converse about struggles faced by neighbouring communities. We are reminded that many of the concerns facing Penticton residents are being faced by several other communities across our province as well.
The issue of marijuana dispensaries was of course a common topic around the convention, but the one workshop that really caught my attention was Policy Implications for Short-term Vacation Rentals.
With the shortage of monthly rental accommodations within the city of Penticton, especially during our summer season, the impact of short term rentals such as AirBNB and VRBO can have an adverse effect on Penticton’s ability to accommodate monthly seasonal employment work forces and local residents alike.
With the impact of this growing trend on our current residents as well as limits imposed on small businesses economic growth, I look forward to working with our community stakeholders to find a balanced solution that can appropriately accommodate the needs of our constituents.
COUN. JUDY SENTES — Once again the Union of British Columbia Municipalities Convention, UBCM, was an incredible opportunity of five days of workshops, seminars and lectures as well as one-on-one meetings with ministers including the premier herself.
It is impossible for one or two representatives from any jurisdiction to cover the entire schedule which fosters great learning and networking. Of special interest for me were sessions on Tent Cities & Homelessness; Collaboration Can Create New Affordable Housing Units; growing B.C.’s Creative Economy.
Together with our meetings with Ministers (Shirley) Bond and (Peter) Fassbender, great ideas and strategies were gathered.
I also attended UBCM’s hosting of the premiere of A Plastic Ocean, a documentary on the condition of the world’s oceans.