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COMMENTARY · 29th October 2010
Randy Halyk
I would like to comment on the Cabinet Shuffle by Premier Campbell.

I will not comment on the changes only on the timing.

The UBCM (Union of British Columbia Municipalities) http://ubcm.ca/ which includes every municipality and City in B.C. meets every year in September. This organization was designed as a vehicle to allow Local government to have a voice that would be heard by the Provincial Government.

One of the main advantages of the UBCM in my mind is that every Local Government gets to set up appointments with Cabinet Ministers to air their concerns and ask for their help with issues that only they can affect, as Local government has virtually no power in B.C.’s provincial policies, other than the perceived power of the people that elect them.

Another advantage is that all members of the UBCM can submit Motions to be debated and voted on by the members that attend the annual general meeting. These motions are then submitted to the Provincial Government.

The disadvantage of the UBCM is that it has virtually no power, and any Motions carried by the membership have no teeth, as it can only make suggestions and the Provincial Government may or may not at their discretion support motions. And generally discount any motion they do not like.

Another disadvantage is depending on who controls the executive (Political Party) the Executive may or may not move relevant issues to the forefront, or with input of the party ad their own motions.

This year a hotly debated issue was widely covered in the press when the UBCM voted against the proposed Enbridge pipeline Project.

Another issue that the UBCM is standing for is the right of local government to collect and apportion taxes, a fundamental value that must be supported. Local government is truly the best level of government to determine taxes as they are the closest to the people and know the needs of the local people far better than Victoria ever could. Where would we be in the North if Victoria did all the taxing and made decisions about how it should be collected, apportioned or spent without local knowledge or input?

It seems that the Cabinet changes every year just after the Whole of Local Government at UBCM is granted their 15 minutes with the Ministers that hold the power to affect the changes or investment that the particular Local Government is seeking.

As a Councillor I am very concerned that all the investment in time and money to send delegations to the UBCM under the pretext that Local government can affect Provincial government policy through targeted meetings with Cabinet Ministers is wasted, as within weeks of every UBCM (that I have attended) the Cabinet is shuffled and the new Ministers have not had the opportunity to hear the wishes and concerns of local government.

I do understand that the Ministerial Bureaucrats are there to update the new ministers but do they have the same passion and knowledge that an individual Local Government Mayor or Councillor has when talking about a specific local issue, I think not.

On whole the concept of the UBCM is to my mind, sound, albeit flawed. I would like to see a stronger UBCM with more power to affect Provincial policy, after all Local Government truly represents all British Columbians and because local government is so close to the people they represent democracy at the ground level where it truly counts.

To sum up, at the least the Province must shuffle the cabinet before the UBCM, or dispense with the Ministerial meeting at the UBCM altogether.