Next week, Penticton plays host to a singular conference, when 86 mayors from across the province will gather for the inaugural B.C. Mayors Caucus.
Smaller groups of mayors meet regularly, for example, the quarterly meetings of the Okanagan Valley mayors. But this is the first time a meeting has been organized for mayors from across the province to share discussions on common issues and goals.
“In my tenure as an elected official in Penticton, I’ve never heard of a mayor’s conference before. That’s why my hat is off to Mayor Watts for suggesting this,” said Mayor Dan Ashton.
Surrey Mayor Dianne Watts, Ashton added, was key to putting the conference together and choosing Penticton as the location for the inaugural event.
“I want to thank her for selecting Penticton, it’s a wonderful opportunity for all of us to share best practices,” said Ashton, who is also a part of the nine-mayor steering committee. This gives mayors an opportunity, Ashton added, to talk about the issues they face as well as the opportunities and how their cities conduct their business.
Sharing that kind of information is nothing new, Ashton said, but it is rare to be able to do it face to face in a forum setting.
“When we went through the consolidation the City of Penticton did, that was shared with many municipalities,” said Ashton. “My phone rang off the hook on that stuff.”
The goals of the caucus include information sharing on common issues facing municipalities in British Columbia, forging policy agreements to bring forward to the federal and provincial governments, exploring mutual support in the delivery of municipal services, seeking economic benefits through shared resources and pursuing joint economic development.
“B.C.’s municipalities need a new deal with the provincial and federal governments to provide the services our constituents expect. The current model is broken, and as mayors we need to meet to discuss a collaborative approach to reversing the unsustainable trend that most municipalities are facing,” said Watts.
“Municipalities provide the vast majority of the service in areas such as infrastructure while being given only eight cents out of every tax dollar to do it. We know that taxpayers are at their limit, so it’s time to discuss new partnerships with the other orders of government.”
The cost of the three-day conference, which runs from May 16 to 18, is $200 and mayors are expected to cover their own accommodation expenses.
And while Ashton said this will be a business meeting, not a junket for the mayors, that hasn’t stopped him from promoting Penticton.
“This is business, but there will be opportunities and I am going to make sure what Penticton has to offer will be shared with my peers,” he said. “We made sure that Penticton was on the radar screen when the idea was proposed.”