The Union of B.C. Municipalities convention may be over for the year, but now is the time when the work has to begin.
The hectic week-long event drew around 1,500 local government delegates to Victoria last week to set policy, attend workshops and, as the theme of In Conversation would suggest, talk to each other and share experiences.
But members of Prince George city council were taken aback by what they were hearing from other communities, said Mayor Shari Green.
We sat here in amazement listening to all the asks that communities had of the province. Waive this fee, waive that assessment, pay for our vehicle insurance, Green said. There were a lot of resolutions that asked the province for a lot of money. And that was a real eye opener that I addressed the membership with - that we really do need to be managing our own spending and finding from within.
During the conventions Sept. 27 debate on a resolution to curtail projects that would encourage more oil tanker traffic along the B.C. coast, Green told the delegates she was concerned about making requests that would limit the provincial governments ability to generate revenue.
We have one pie and were asking the province to slice up more pieces of it for us, and yet were making decisions that are going to shrink the pie of this province, she said during last weeks resolution session.
The convention was also an eye-opening experience for P.G.s newest councillors Frank Everitt, Albert Koehler and Lyn Hall. The three were in good company - nearly half of the delegates in attendance were newly elected last November.
Koehler said he didnt know what to expect, but made the most of experience by being strategic with his approach to the conventions vast schedule.
I found out that its worthwhile only to be here if you really plan ahead of time where you want to be, focus on with whom you want to talk and what session you want to be at, he said.
On any given day, there could be simultaneous workshops, panel discussions, meetings with cabinet ministers and more.
Everitt said he appreciates the way the local city council works after listening to a presentation from metropolitan governance expert Myron Orfield, who explained how the Twin Cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul, Minn., have to handle functioning with hundreds of local governments within the city limits.
Its a pretty complicated process. We do have some good things going for us, he said.
Hall said he was impressed with the array of MLAs on hand during the week from both sides of the legislature.
Delegates also had the chance to set up 15-minute meetings with cabinet ministers or the premier to advance their own localized agenda.
This means regional MLAs were also kept hopping.
I had just under 50 meetings over about two-and-a-half days, said Prince George-Valemount MLA and Justice Minister Shirley Bond. Those were a combination of sit- downs organized with communities coming to her as a minister as well as those she attended with other ministers in support as a local MLA.
Bond said delegates came to her with issues around policing and the associated cost challenges. She also attended a number of meetings where communities from the Robson Valley were interested in the status of power projects.
Though hectic, Bond said cabinet ministers take the UBCM meetings very seriously and that it gives them better insight into what community issues are.
The premier made it clear to us that we were to meet, to listen and to follow up, she said, noting delegates came well prepared.
Prince George-Mackenzie MLA and Jobs, Tourism and Skills Training Minister Pat Bell also attended dozens of meetings throughout the conference, which he said were catered to smaller communities who dont have the budget to send their mayor or chief administrative officer to Victoria to meet with him otherwise.
So if we get a series of requests for meetings from Vancouver and Surrey and Chetwynd and Tumbler Ridge, well take Tumbler Ridge and Chetwynd, Bell said. If we have room, well do Vancouver and Surrey and if we dont we put our priority to the smaller communities.
Bell also said the requests from local governments were toned down from previous years. They know that financially the province is not in great shape right now with budget challenges, he said.
Time will tell how the In Conversation theme really works out, said Everitt.
I think its an interesting theme. You need to have a conversation with all levels of government in order to work at the local level.
Local representation at the UBCM was also strengthened at the executive level. Prince George Coun. Murry Krause was elected back to the board as one of five directors at large and Regional District of Fraser-Fort George chair Art Kaehn was also elected to the board as the electoral area rep.