B.C.’s mayors wrapped up their inaugural meeting in Penticton Friday by calling for an immediate discussion with the premier and cabinet to examine the state of communities in the province, and specifically, a more efficient use of existing resources to better address the challenges facing their citys’, towns’ and villages’ residents.
The 86-stong B.C. Mayors’ Caucus endorsed the following statement: “B.C. communities are frontline service providers for our citizens and we are seeking a new partnership with the provincial and federal governments in the best interests of all of our communities. The B.C. Mayors’ Caucus requests an immediate discussion on the efficient use of existing resources to better address the challenges our residents face.”
Following the three days of meetings in Penticton, the mayors outlined a number of specific areas that need to be addressed including:
- Creation of a premier’s round-table with the mayors’ caucus to discuss public policy changes that affect local government budgets and delivery of services
- Elimination of the ad hoc granting process in favour of one that is sustainable, accountable, quantifiable and allows for long-term planning by local governments
- Expansion of the mandate of the new municipal auditor-general to include an examination of the financial impacts of downloading on local governments
- Development of a round-table on aging infrastructure that includes federal, provincial and local government participation
- Affirmation of the core service delivery of each order of government
- A redesign of the cost sharing formula for significant infrastructure projects to reflect the tax revenue distribution
- If services are devolved to local governments, that a sustainable revenue source for those services be identified
- Development of a coordinated approach to how social services are delivered into a community
- A call for a full review of ambulance service delivery
- Establishment of flexibility around the federal gas tax and for it to be goal-oriented to the priorities of the specific communities
- Expansion of the application of the fair-share principles province-wide and to include other industry sectors.
Steering committee member Mayor Shari Green of Prince George said the feeling in the room was clear.
“This was an incredibly beneficial meeting where it became evident that B.C. mayors have, for the first time, come together as peers with a single voice,” said Green. “This is a new day in the way we, as mayors, will move forward for the benefit of all of our residents.”
Kamloops Mayor Peter Milobar noted that the caucus was clear that the time for a change in how governments interact is now.
“We have to be far-sighted and innovative and we must be partners with all orders of government in finding efficiencies in how we deliver service,” he said.
Mayor Dean Fortin of Victoria said a number of common issues came to the forefront at the meeting, including the federal and provincial granting process for local governments.
“Right now we’re caught in a grant game’ with the provincial and federal governments,” said Forin. “I’m looking forward to establishing a system that is sustainable, predictable, and quantifiable in order that we can budget and plan correctly in our respective communities.”
Another member of the mayors’ caucus steering committee said there is a need for a collective approach to service provision.
“As the front lines of government, it is at the community level that changes in public policy, and their resulting cost implications, are felt the most,” said Mayor Taylor Bachrach of Smithers. “We must be partners in those decisions.”
The mayors also looked at ideas about joint economic development on a community partnership basis and decided that meeting as group will become an annual event so as not to loose the momentum they feel was gained by the first gathering.The next meeting will be held in Victoria in September.
“We are the front line of government and the backbone of this province.” said Cranbrook Mayor Wayne Stetski. “We want a seat at the table so we can ensure the needs of our residents are well represented.”
The B.C. Mayors’ Caucus is structured after successful models across North America and Europe, including the Alberta Mayors’ Caucus, the Canadian Big Cities Mayors’ Caucus, the Atlantic Mayors’ Congress in the Maritimes, the Metropolitan Mayors’ Caucus in the United States and the Summit of Mayors in the European Union.
At its meeting, the caucus named nine members to a steering committee:
- Mayor Dean Fortin of Victoria – Vancouver Island region
- Mayor Dan Ashton of Penticton – Thompson/Okanagan? region
- Mayor Shari Green of Prince George – Cariboo? region
- Mayor Jack Mussallem of Prince Rupert – North Coast? region
- Mayor Wayne Stetski of Cranbrook – Kootenay? region
- Mayor Lori Ackerman of Fort St. John – Northeast region
- Mayor Taylor Bachrach of Smithers – Nechako ?region
- Mayor Dianne Watts of Surrey – Fraser Valley region
- Mayor Greg Moore of Port Coquitlam – Lower Mainland region