UBCM 

Look n' see is council agenda for provincial meeting Union of B.C. Municipalities conference is Oct. 21-24 in Vancouver By Chris Woodall Whistler municipal councillors will be like casual shoppers in a large grocery store when they attend the annual Union of British Columbia Municipalities conference next week in Vancouver. They'll squeeze some tomatoes, sniff at the freshness of the mangoes, peruse the aisles for which brand name messages look most appealing, and spend a few minutes nibbling the free samples while they hear a sales pitch or two. And maybe they'll get to talk to the head butcher about sending some choice cuts of beef Whistler's way. "We're going to get a sense of what the provincial government's position is," says Whistler Mayor Hugh O'Reilly about mainline issues such as treaty negotiations, and infrastructure funding for roads and schools. "It's the one chance when the provincial government comes forward and says what they're planning," O'Reilly says. Indeed, many high-profile cabinet ministers will be at the UBCM either as keynote speakers or the focus of workshops. Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing Mike Farnsworth speaks Wednesday, Oct. 22, for example, followed by concurrent sessions involving Ministers of Aboriginal Affairs, of Environment, Lands and Parks, of Transportation and Highways, of Forests and the attorney general. The theme of this year's UBCM is FAIR2: Finance and Intergovernmental Relations, as in the municipalities wanting a fair deal from the province along those lines. More than 1,500 delegates from cities, towns and hamlets across British Columbia will be at the Vancouver Trade and Convention Centre to concentrate on financial and legislative aspects of relations with Victoria. In a time when the province talks of downloading the cost and responsibility of many services to the municipal level, O'Reilly hopes the UBCM board will push harder to free a municipality's ability to raise money to pay for these things, such as having real estate transfer taxes or a municipal sales tax. Although the conference is four days long, few if any Whistler councillors plan to go the full monty and attend everything. Many town councillors, like Whistler's Ted Milner, will be making their first trip to the UBCM. He's not planning any specific issues to focus on, but rather get a flavour for the event. "But I've always been interested in housing issues and financial sustainability, so I'll want to see how other towns raise money for their infrastructure projects," Milner says. One of the issues Nancy Wilhelm-Morden will be keeping an eye on is what stand the conference will take on developing consistent non-smoking regulations across the province. Rubbing elbows with fellow politicians is an important function of the conference, too. Whistler will host its own gathering of Sea to Sky Corridor politicians, says O'Reilly, as a way to put faces to the names talked to over the telephone. "I haven't met the Squamish councillors," O'Reilly says by way of an example. "It's a lot easier to pick up a phone to talk to somebody if you can picture who they are." That ability to chit chat goes right to the top. "It's a chance for the province to schmooze with municipal officials… and they have a lot of schmoozing to do," says Wilhelm-Morden of lingering antagonism between the senior and junior levels of government. Clinics each day touch on vital issues of municipal interest, from building a better sewage plant to cutting postal costs. To get a sense of what the fuss is all about, here's a selection of the UBCM agenda: TUESDAY, OCT. 21 o Clinic on future strategy for municipal waste water treatment o Small talk forum and a large urban community forum o Welcome reception at Science World WEDNESDAY, OCT. 22 o Clinics on local government role in streamside protection; Canada Post and electronic solutions for municipalities; understanding mobile communications; Forest Renewal B.C. o Opening session of the convention and annual meeting, with a policy session on resolutions that this year include infrastructure funding for local government, a province-wide 911 service, local government representation on regional health boards, smoking in the work place, and the expansion of casino gambling. All of these are not necessarily "pro" or "anti" the topic being resolved. o Workshops keying on ministries mentioned above. THURSDAY, OCT. 23 o Clinics on beverage containers in an expanded deposit system; new initiatives in planning; improving environment standards; and the advantages of public-private partnerships in public security o More talk about resolutions o Seminars on alternative financing through community foundations and sponsorships; sharing experiences of development finance and school site acquisition; and the economic and social benefits of arts & culture at the local level o Annual banquet FRIDAY, OCT. 24 o Clinics on community energy planning made easy; helping shape the future of B.C. parks; new initiatives in housing; what you can say about your opponent without defaming him/her; recreation: an essential service

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