And so ends another convention of the Union of B.C. Municipalities.
Prince George was well-represented at this week's convention in Victoria, with the mayor and seven councillors there.
Two of the city's resolutions passed with little fanfare. Delegates agreed to lobby the province for resource revenue sharing agreements for local governments that ask for them and to pursue
getting a portion of the province's gas tax revenue to help with road rehabilitation projects.
The third resolution, brought forward by Coun. Dave Wilbur, was the one that truly deserved to be passed but was rejected by the other delegates.
Wilbur wanted the UBCM to push for fewer strings attached to the money sent to municipalities from the federal gas tax. Currently, local governments are only allowed to use the money for the capital costs of sustainable infrastructure and to promote the use of public transit, cycling and pedestrians. They cannot use the money for any other infrastructure investment or for anything considered an operating cost for that sustainable infrastructure spending. In other words, they can build new bike lanes or buy new buses with that money but they can't use that money to service those buses or paint new lines for the bike lanes.
Ontario, Manitoba and Alberta do not impose the same restrictions on municipal governments when it comes to spending their share of the federal gas tax funds.
Yet Wilbur couldn't get the support of the UBCM resolutions committee before the convention and from the delegates at the convention.
Kamloops Coun. Donovan Cavers told his fellow delegates not to support the proposal, because the money is supposed to be used to fund green initiatives.
"I believe that it's set up so we can move ourselves away from more vehicle traffic," he said. "Putting it into transit is the way it should be spent and I don't think there should be any changes to that."
Move away from vehicle traffic?
In what world is that happening in?
Municipal governments are constantly complaining about how the federal and provincial governments have downloaded services and responsibilities. Here is an instance where money is being passed along to pay for these green initiatives, so how wrong is it for B.C. municipalities to ask for the authority to have the same flexibility available in other provinces and spend that money to meet community needs.
Comox mayor Paul Ives got it and supported Wilbur's proposal.
"We're not talking about reallocating gas tax money as it is between municipalities and regional districts, but we're talking about giving municipalities the opportunity to use those funds in a way that we feel meets local priority," he said.
Unfortunately, there weren't enough delegates like Ives, who could see this issue as clearly a case of municipal autonomy
If the federal and provincial governments want to fund green projects, then they should fund them and dedicate staff to deliver results. What the UBCM delegates who rejected Wilbur's proposal seem to be missing is that by accepting this string-attached money, municipalities are left to do the actual work but they can't use the funding for operating costs (paying the staff to do the work).
Instead, there were local politicians like Colwood Coun. Cynthia Day who think municipal governments are in the business of addressing climate change.
Since when do municipal politicians have the authority to address international problems?
That's outside of your job description and well above your pay scale, Coun. Day.
As UNBC political science professor Tracy Summerville points out in her column to the right of this editorial, the historical role of municipal governments has been in service delivery, although they have been forced by other levels of government and by public expectations to take on more responsibility.
Wilbur's resolution would have let B.C. municipalities accept that responsibility with the federal gas tax funds but take away some of the restrictions from letting local governments invest the money in ways that more directly benefit the residents who paid that gas tax in the first place.
-- Managing editor Neil Godbout