Thursday, May 19, 2016

100 ways to say no: provincial government responds to UBCM resolutions

Every fall, local government politicians throughout the province attend the Union of BC Municipalities (UBCM) annual conference. One of the key outcomes of the conference is the adoption of resolutions which get forwarded to the province for consideration.

As I posted about last fall, these resolutions give some insight into the challenges faced by local governments throughout the province. The provincial government reviews the resolutions, and provides its comments back to local governments. The responses for the 2015 resolutions were recently released.

Resolutions are grouped into two main categories. “A” resolutions address priority issues that are relevant to all local governments throughout the province. “B” resolutions are general resolutions. At the 2015 UBCM conference, five priority resolutions and around 100 general resolutions were adopted.

I read over many of the provincial responses. It is really interesting to see how many ways the provincial government can basically say, “We hear you, but we are not going to change our direction.” For example, just look at the responses for the five priority resolutions.

The first priority UBCM resolution called for the provincial government to dedicate 60% of the infrastructure funding it receives from the federal government’s Build Canada Fund to be allocated to local government. Right now, the province allocates 40%. The response from the province, “BC’s focus is on investments, which could include local government initiatives, which facilitate job creation and economic growth.”

The second priority resolution called on the provincial government to develop a long-term, multi-faceted strategy to help people suffering from mental health and addiction issues, and increase funding to mental health and addiction services throughout the province.

The provincial response was that it adopted the “Improving Health Service for Individuals with Severe Addiction and Mental Illness” in 2013, and since that time has allocated $20.25 million to health authorities to expand service based on their action plan.

The third priority resolution requested that the province not download the cost and responsibility onto regional districts to enforce the provincial Fire Services Act in unincorporated areas. The provincial response is “the province is committed to ensuring that public safety is addressed across BC, including the issue of compliance monitoring. The province will continue to consult with stakeholders as the process continues.”

The fourth priority resolution asked that both the provincial and federal governments expand the scope of current oil, and hazardous and noxious substance emergency response plans to include all impacts and consequences for local communities. The provincial government replied that “on June 15, 2015 the Ministry announced plans to implement a world-leading land-based spill regime by February 2017. Many of the new requirements would ensure that local governments are supported in preparedness, response and recovery for spill events.”

The final priority resolution called for an Environmental Bill of Rights which “recognizes the right of every resident to live in a healthy environment, including the right to clean air, clean water, clean food and vibrant ecosystems.” What does the province think? “An environmental bill of rights is not needed in BC because the province’s existing and continually evolving environmental and natural resource regulatory regimes protect the public interest.”

While the resolutions passed at UBCM show what issues are important to local governments, the provincial government rarely acts on the adopted resolutions.

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