I wonder if the Union of BC Municipalities (UBCM) picked this week for their conference to coincide with the Whistler Beer Festival (WBF)? I’d like to think it was strategic on their part to help attract the maximum number of delegates.
Regardless, the conference drew hundreds of civic officials, mayors, and councillors (many of whom are in re-election mode) to discuss and debate myriad resolutions put forward by UBCM members that will help influence the health and welfare of communities around the province.
Aside from participating in a workshop on the BC aviation sector, I had the opportunity to meet with multiple elected officials to discuss the needs of the tourism industry as we continue to rebound from the effects of the pandemic. It was also a chance for me to listen to presentations by several political leaders on their hopes, plans, and goals for the province in the years ahead.
In her annual presentation to delegates, outgoing UBCM President Laurey-Anne Roodenburg of Quesnel said that among the biggest priorities communities need to tackle in the coming years are housing shortages, aging or inadequate infrastructure, and social unrest within society in general.
The Green Party’s Sonia Furstenau talked about expectations every resident has around a better future for their community, appealing to provincial and federal decision-makers for more support for new hospitals, schools, and housing, as well as tackling labour shortages and the drug crisis, among other priorities.
Liberal Party leader Kevin Falcon spoke of similar issues and the need for all parties and communities to collaborate on solutions. Falcon stressed that problems aren’t necessarily solved by how much money government spends, but actual results from the work that’s being done. He stressed his party’s mandate is about keeping people safe and alive, and making it affordable for people to live in BC.
In the final plenary session, outgoing Premier John Horgan spoke of the extraordinary times British Columbians have experienced in recent years citing the pandemic, heat dome, atmospheric river, tainted drug supply, among other unexpected crises. He too emphasized the need for government to continue to provide the services that residents need, and for elected officials of all stripes and levels to work together to solve the ongoing challenges.
None of what delegates heard was necessarily new and there was much more to each speech to be sure. However, what I didn’t anticipate was an underlying tone to many conversations I had personally with delegates or heard during the conference that adds a layer of complexity to the job that politicians have been called to.
Public unrest, civil disobedience, physical or personal attacks, threats, animosity, anger, and constant vitriol through avenues like social media seem to be par for the course in society these days and have led to a very scary and uncomfortable operating environment for many politicians in BC.
Even so, when Municipal Affairs Minister Nathan Cullen asked delegates who planned to run for office again to stand, the majority of the room was on its feet…an encouraging sign that there are still committed and brave folks willing to serve their communities in spite of increasing incidents and concern over their personal safety. Minister Cullen also commended UBCM for its conference theme, Value of One, Power of Many that reinforces the collective strength of those who serve in local government around the province.
As I alluded to earlier, I had an opportunity to speak with several cabinet ministers, as well as Premier Horgan, and to an individual, they were bullish on our sector and keen to work with TIABC and our partners to help the tourism industry rebuild in a more sustainable and impactful way for the benefit of residents and communities throughout British Columbia.
A shout-out to the Resort Municipality of Whistler and to UBCM for hosting and staging an excellent conference. It’s now time for me to shift gears and spend some of my discretionary funds on supporting local businesses…perhaps at the WBF where I’m sure to connect with other fellow delegates throughout the weekend.